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!

Route 66: Tulsa to Oklahoma City

Day 14: Monday, May 13, 2013
Start: Tulsa, OK
End: Oklahoma City, OK
Miles Driven Today: 140
Total Miles: 2,424

Today was another day of slow travel and good chats. We decided to only go as far as Oklahoma City, so we had a short trip planned. Given that short day, Tom graciously took me to two Quilt shops so I could find some Route 66 fabric.

We first stopped at Quilt Sampler. This is a very large quilt shop and sewing machine dealer. They had lots of Route 66 fabric choices, plus Oklahoma-specific printed panels. I got a set of vintage post card panels and some Route 66 fabrics. They were really sweet people, and they pointed me to another local quilt shop just a mile or two away.

We went on to the second quilt shop, Cotton Patch. While this is a much smaller shop, the ladies there had a nice selection of Route 66 fabric–entirely different than the fabrics at the Quilt Sampler. I got some yardage, and they were nice enough to give me a discount!

Cotton Patch - Tulsa

The nice ladies at the Cotton Patch in Tulsa!

A few dollars lighter (Bob, that’s the PRECISE amount), we headed back to Route 66. Tulsa is one GIANT road construction project. We encountered closed roads, tons of closed lanes and terminal gridlock all over the city. It was really frustrating to drive around Tulsa, and once were were out of the city and back on the open road, we were happy campers. I don’t think I’ll tire of driving these lonesome highways and back roads.

Oklahoma Open Road

More open road. Nope. Not getting tired of this at all!

EZ66 Guide

EZ66 Guide

We have been using Jerry McClanahan’s Route 66 EZ66 Guide for Travelers to navigate our way across Route 66. For those of you that haven’t traveled 66 before, it isn’t a straight shot down a clearly marked highway. Historic Route 66 traverses, crosses, meanders to and fro…it’s a mishmash of roads, highways and bygone ways. To really ride the historic path, you really need a guide. This book provides both East-to-West or West-to-East turn-by-turn directions across the entire route, as well as recommended sights, side trips, places to eat and stay. It’s the ultimate guidebook. However, its value really isn’t understood (it’s not a book that you sit and read) until you’re on the road, hunting for the next turn or the next cool stop. Then, it’s a fountain of information that you can’t get with any other book. We love it.

When we were going through the book, we found Jerry’s invitation to visit his McJerry’s Route 66 Gallery in Chandler, OK. We decided to make a stop. His phone number and address are in the book, and there’s a sign on the door asking people to call him if they stop by. We did, and he came out of his house (next door) and invited us in. He asked us to sign his visitor poster and then he showed us his artwork. Jerry paints in oil, acrylic and watercolor (and does pencil sketches) of Route 66 places and people. They images are nostalgic, but contemporary. Very nice!

McJerry's Route 66 Gallery

Jerry McClanahan’s McJerry’s Route 66 Gallery

Jerry McClanahan

Jerry McClanahan – Author, road-tripper and talented artist

While I was signing his poster, I noticed a family from Taipei, Taiwan had been by. We have run into these people three times since we started on this trip–at the Mule Trading Post, at Gay Parita, and now (a near miss) here at Jerry’s gallery. We’re wondering when we’ll see them next!

We chatted with Jerry for a few minutes and were back on our travels. As we made it to Arcadia, we encountered the Round Barn. Mr. Sam, the “storyteller” of the Round Barn, was there to greet and chat with us. This old barn was built in 1898. It was in ruins for quite some time until a group of volunteers began to restore it in 1988. The upstairs loft (pictured below) is a huge open space often rented for parties and weddings. It’s enormous!!!

Arcadia Round Barn

Mr. Sam postcard from the Arcadia Round Barn

Inside the dome

Inside the dome at the Arcadia Round Barn. Round barns were built to accommodate animals working/walking around items like milling stones.

Arcadia Round Barn Panorama

Panorama of the Arcadia Round Barn

Of course, a visit to the Round Barn wouldn’t be complete without a picture with Mr. Sam!

Mahgrit and Mr. Sam

Mahgrit and Mr. Sam. Mr. Sam is upwards of 86 years young! Apparently, he’s quite a land baron!

We motored on after Arcadia and made it to Oklahoma City. We didn’t venture downtown; we instead opted to stay on the outskirts. Tomorrow, we’re aiming to reach Elk City (leisurely travel) or Amarillo, TX (ambitious motoring). We’ll see how far we get! There are some interesting sights along the way! I have a feeling that Elk City is more realistic; we might save Amarillo for our end point on Wednesday.

The dogs have been adjusting well to the trip. The travel is now our routine. Each day, we get up, get dressed, take them out, feed them, pack up and motor on. In the late afternoon, we reach our destination and get settled into our hotel room. We make a few stops to give them breaks, but they’re primarily snuggled in back, sleeping in the sunshine peeking through the car windows.

I do have to say that they are enjoying the recliners at the La Quinta hotels. It’s almost like home! Until tomorrow…

Jasmine and Juliet

Jasmine and Juliet love the recliners at the La Quinta hotels

Route 66: Springfield to Joplin

Day 12: Saturday, May 11, 2013
Start: Springfield, MO
End: Joplin, MO
Miles Driven Today: 82
Total Miles: 2,118

Today was not a huge travel day, but it was definitely FULL. This blog post is full of pictures of the many interesting things we saw today!

We had a slow start to the morning and didn’t leave the hotel until around 11 a.m. We were aiming to get to Tulsa, Oklahoma by the end of the day, but given the miles we’d have to cover, we just decided to wing it and figure out the game plan around 2 or 3 p.m. We left Springfield and started out, once again, on the open road.

The Cuba-to-Springfield route yesterday was quite a zig-zag across Interstate 44. Sometimes running parallel to the main artery, sometimes crossing, sometimes going through some more pristine country, following the precise Historic route requires some very specific directions. We are using the Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan. It gives turn-by-turn directions, sites to see and great side-trip options for the Route 66 pilgrim. However, today’s route was relatively free of twists and turns, and we had a lot of open road with old barns, stone buildings, and farmland to mark our way.

Open Road Again

The open road. Today’s travels were less fussy and more direct.

The second town we came to after leaving Springfield was Paris Springs. There, we found the Gay Parita Sinclair Station, a replica of an old Sinclair gas station with vintage trucks, cars, gas pumps, signs and other great memorabilia. Gary Turner and his wife Lena run the place. What was clear when we pulled up and walked in was that it wasn’t going to be a short visit. Gary invited (okay, cajoled) us to eat one of his delicious (yum) donuts and have a cup of coffee. He sat us down on his porch and started to chat about travels in the area. He autographed and gave us a picture of his station.

Gay Parita Filling Station

Gay Parita Filling Station in Paris Springs, Missouri

Gary Turner

Gary Turner, Owner & Proprietor, Gay Parita Sinclair Station. Come visit with the expectation of staying awhile.

The station, garage and grounds were one big antique “museum.” Old signs, restored gas pumps, vehicles in various stages of restoration, vignettes, kitsch, trinkets and stories…this was a gem of a stop. We sat with Gary as he told us about the region and as he quizzed us about our travels and goals. He told us about the “best steak ever” and the “nicest motel to stay in Carthage” and the most “beautiful vintage town.” His wife Lena sat with us for a few minutes as well when Gary went to greet some new visitors and then showed us to the barn and the vintage outhouse, AKA Gary’s ‘doghouse.’

Old police cruiser

Old police cruiser; one of the many old vehicles on the Gay Parita property.

Perpetual fixer-upper

Perpetual fixer-upper

Mater's uncle

Mater’s uncle?

Gary's dog house

Lena says this is Gary’s place when he’s in the “dog house”

While we were ‘visiting’, another Route 66 pilgrim pulled up in his vintage 1950 Ford. Of course, it was as if he was pulling up to a filling station in the right era…pefect!

Vintage Ford

Vintage Ford on the Route 66 pilgrimage. The owner is on the road with his restored cruiser.

Vintage 1950 Ford

Vintage 1950 Ford. WOW!

We had a couple of photos, bought a pictoral guide to Route 66 (autographed specially for us by Gary), and were sent on our way with a hand-drawn map to Red Oak II, a town of restored buildings and artwork. This really was a great way to learn more about the area and to be welcomed with some genuine interest and hospitality!

Tom Mahgrit and Gary

Tom, Mahgrit and Gary

Photo Op!

Gary is very much into the Route 66 experience. It was by far our favorite stop!

As we made our way to our next stop, we traversed Johnson Creek across this bridge, built in 1926, and passed a vintage Phillips 66 station. Just a couple of pieces of history that make this route so special!

1926 Johnson Creek Bridge

1926 Johnson Creek Bridge

Vintage Phillips 66 Station

Vintage Phillips 66 Station in Spencer, MO

We followed Gary’s map and found Red Oak II, the brainchild of Lowell Davis. There was an original Red Oak, but Lowell Davis moved it to this new location. It’s a collection of old buildings, lovingly restored, as well as wonderful sculptures by Davis. It’s an obvious labor of love. We were greeted by Davis himself, as he rode his John Deere mower across the grass. Unassuming and very sweet. We told him how much we were enjoying his work. He smiled, chatted for a few minutes, and went on mowing. His dog, Duke, followed us for awhile as we ambled up the streets of this “town.”

Red Oak II

Red Oak II near Carthage, MO. An entire village of relocated and restored buildings and automobiles is the brainchild and labor of love by artist Lowell Davis.

Red Oak Biplane Art

Biplane Art/Sculpture at Red Oak II

Self-made convertible

Self-made convertible

Acres of fun

Acres of buildings, sculptures and vintage machines

The Boys Night Out

The Boys Night Out

Water sculpture

Love this water fountain sculpture!

Missoura Summer Night

Missoura Summer Night

Biplane

Not quite flight-ready

Billy Goat

Billy Goat. Love that it’s chewing on a tin can!

Democrats Outnumbered

Democrats are in the minority here!

Sign to Red Oak

Sign to Red Oak on Historic 66

After we left Red Oak, we went on to Carthage, relaxed a bit downtown and enjoyed an ice cream cone. Carthage’s downtown was a bit…quiet. But the courthouse was quite spectacular.

Foxfire Farm

Foxfire Farm – Another Lowell Davis sculpture in Carthage

Jasper County Courthouse

Jasper County Courthouse in downtown Carthage

Jasmine and Juliet

Jasmine and Juliet enjoy downtown Carthage

We decided to venture off to the next metro area, Joplin, for the night (another Drury…love it!). Joplin, Missouri was the town that was all but leveled by a tornado not so long ago. From what we saw, it has bounced back!

I’m not sure how far we’ll make it tomorrow, but we’ll most likely make it through the corner of Kansas and into Oklahoma. Perhaps we’ll make it to Tulsa as we originally planned! But hey, if we don’t…there’s nothing wrong with that! That’s the beauty of this kind of travel!

Southern Indiana

Day 9 (Tue, May 7)
Start: Corydon, IN
End: Evansville, IN
Miles Driven: 157
Total Miles: 1,422

Today’s journey was filled with quiet back roads and spectacular sights. Just the way we like it!

We started the morning at our hotel with the free breakfast. While there’s nothing spectacular about a free breakfast at a hotel, the automatic pancake maker was cool. It was like a pancake “printer”. You push a button, and a minute or two later, it pushes out a pancake similar to the way a laser printer pushes out a printed sheet. The second pancake follows soon after. Okay, so they weren’t the BEST pancakes ever. But hey, it was more fun than the make-your-own-waffler machines at most breakfast buffets. 🙂

So, on to the spectacular portions of our day. After the pancake printer, we went to the Marengo Cave–a U.S. Historic Landmark. These limestone caves were discovered by a couple of kids in 1883 and were soon opened for tours. We went on a 40-minute guided tour of the “Crystal Palace” area of the cave. Since it was early and a Tuesday, we got a private tour. The pictures below don’t do the cave justice. Luckily, the bats had retreated to a lower level. 🙂 We were glad that we decided to visit the Cave…had I felt a bit better, we might have passed on the opportunity rather than stopping in Corydon. So, perhaps my cold had a purpose after all!!

Marengo Cave

Marengo Cave entrance to the Crystal Palace tour

Marengo Cave

Stalactites and Stalagmites in the Marengo Cave

Marengo Cave Pipe Organ

Marengo Cave Pipe Organ area. Weddings have been held here!

We packed up and left the hotel after returning from the cave and headed out for the open road. We decided to continue on the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which traversed Route 62 (the George Rogers Clark Trail) and Route 66 in Indiana. This route took us through the Southern half of the Hoosier National Forest. Rolling hills and a quiet, two-lane byway through this forest enabled us to take a leisurely and scenic tour of Indiana that I would never have imagined. I only thought of Indiana as flat corn country; the drive through Hoosier National Forest showed me trees and meadows, hills and valleys that were a surprise and a delight. We seldom saw another car as we snaked through this lush, green terrain. It was a discovery drive at its best.

Indiana Rte 66

Rte 66 Indiana – Ohio River Scenic Byway

Rte 66 - Indiana

This is the way we like to roll!

Along the way, we wound inland and back to the mighty Ohio, skimming by and driving through small towns and vacation spots, farmland and homesteads. We also went by a very impressive structure–the Cannelton Lock and Dam–as well as a slightly disturbing (too many bad movies) nuclear power plant.

Cannelton Lock and Dam

Cannelton Lock and Dam

Rockport Nuclear Power Plant

Rockport Nuclear Power Plant: Am I glowing?

Ohio River Scenic Byway

The Ohio River Scenic Byway ROCKS!

As the hour grew later, we decided to stop at the outskirts of Evansville, Indiana. We’re settled here for the night and will head through the Shawnee National Forest, and perhaps the Mark Twain National Forest, tomorrow.

Today was a good travel day for the dogs as well. Jasmine’s tummy problems seem to be improving, and both dogs seem much more comfortable in the car. In fact, they seem to be more comfortable with each other as well. All this togetherness is good for them!

Jasmine and Juliet

This trip is becoming a bonding experience for Jasmine and Juliet

Ohio River Scenic Byway

Day 8 (May 6)
Start: Burlington, KY
End: Corydon, IN
Miles Driven Today: 159
Total Miles: 1,265

Today was a light travel day. I woke up with a raging head cold. It’s not conducive to making decisions or navigating in uncharted territory. Regardless, we did have a lovely, scenic travel day.

We started out taking the Anderson Ferry across the Ohio River. In operation since 1871, the Anderson Ferry operates 364 days a year, taking commuters across the river–and states–from Hebron, KY to Cincinnati, OH. I had never been across it, so we thought we’d give it a try. We drove down a windy junglescape of trees and foliage and arrived at a little landing where five cars were already waiting in line for the ferry. A few minutes later, we were on board and under way. Our fare was a whopping $5, and the ferryman noted our ‘killer’ animals on board. The water was murky, most likely due to the storms that had just passed the night before. But the ride was surprisingly smooth.

Anderson Ferry Cincinnati

Boarding the Anderson Ferry

Ohio River

Ferrying across the Ohio River

What was really cool, aside from the ride, was our location on the GPS as we were crossing. 🙂

Crossing the Ohio River

GPS view of our trip across the Ohio River

Once across, we immediately hit Route 50, the Ohio River Scenic Byway. This drive goes across a number of routes–Route 50 in Ohio, Route 56, 156, and Route 62 in Indiana. We drove through the Ohio and Indiana countryside, wheeling through small towns like Patriot and Florence and finally stopping in Corydon, Indiana. We chose Corydon due to its proximity to the Marengo Caves in Marengo, In. We’ll visit in the morning and then head over to the Hoosier National Forest. We might head over to French Lick, IN (home of Larry Bird)…but that’s a decision we’ll make tomorrow. That’s how we roll!

Indiana State Line

Indiana State Line

Amazon.com

Tom suggested that I stop and say hello to the Amazon.com people, since I’m such a good customer!

Chillaxin'

Chillaxin’ after a long day