Sunday, November 18, 2012

Taos Trip

We decided to try going to the southwest this year to get away from Indiana's chilly November.
Oops.  We arrived in New Mexico at the onset of a record breaking cold snap.  To add insult to injury, temps back home were approaching 70 degrees.
When we went to pick up our rental car in Albuquerque and told them we were going to Taos, they suggested we upgrade from the economy sedan we reserved to a bigger SUV with 4WD because we were heading for the mountains and snow was in the forecast.  SNOW?!
We were glad we made the upgrade immediately as while sitting in the Ford Escape trying to figure out all the controls, we noticed our butts getting warm.  Heated seats!  A feature we used a lot.
Before we left Albuquerque, we made our first brewpub stop at the Marble Brewery.  A flight of samples and a quick lunch then we were on the way to Santa Fe.  No stops in Santa Fe, but we took the route through town to plan out what to do when we come back for a day.
Leaving there, we took the "low road" to Taos that runs alongside the Rio Grande river.  All the while we are gaining elevation as Taos sits around 8,000 feet above sea level.  We've never been this high before and were wondering how we were going to handle the thinner air.
The El Monte Segrado resort hotel in Taos is really beautiful.  The grounds are very well designed and each room has its own fireplace and patio.  Which were things we were definitely going to use and not use respectively since the low that night would be 3 degrees.
The Taos mountains provide the backdrop for the grounds.  These mountains include Wheeler Peak, which is the highest point in New Mexico at over 13,000'.  We intended to hike there one day while we were here.
However, as we awoke on Sunday we found the peaks to be all snow-capped.  And did I mention it was really cold?  So we decided to make this day a driving day and do the Enchanted Circle drive.  A 90 mile loop through the mountains.  Did I mention it was really cold, and snowing?  Good thing we upgraded the car.  It was a beautiful drive through the valleys & mountains, and interesting to see the weather change with elevation.  The high point was Bobcat Pass at about 9,800'.

We took a side trip to the Rio Grande Gorge to see the 10th highest bridge in the country at 565' over the river.
Did I mention it was really cold?  And windy?
Coming back from the bridge gave us the chance to hit the Taos Mesa Brewery.  We got a personal tour of the brewery from one of the brewers and were back on our way to the hotel where we hunkered down for the night since it was supposed to hit 1 degree that night.
Day 3 we decided to go to the Taos Pueblo.  An historical site that is the oldest continually inhabited community in the country.  It has been there and live in for 1,000 years.  A very interesting tour by one of the natives gives you the insight of the history from the "inside" view.
We used the rest of the day going to a couple of wineries in Dixon.  On the way there we noticed a run down building on the side of the road called the Blue Heron Brewery.  After some wine tastings and buying a couple of bottles, we pass by the Blue Heron again and Susie can't believe I'd just pass on this dump and insists we stop.  It was just as dumpy on the inside but the beer was FANTASTIC!  The best we've had so far.  Good thing she shamed me into stopping.

A sighting of the adorable snow-Susie
Day 4 we finally decided to go to the Taos Ski Village in the mountains for the hike.  After a bit of research I found the hike to Wheeler Peak was a 16 mile round trip with a gain of around 4,000'.  Not likely to do that, so we would just go hike as far s we wanted.  The parking lot at the village was a sheet of ice.  Glad we made the upgrade to the 4WD.  The trail was totally snow & ice covered as well.  We hiked for an hour and did hit the 10,000' mark, but decided we had about as much fun as we could stand and headed back down to the car.
We headed down the mountain and noticed some interesting road signs.  The first indicates the rocks are the least of your worries falling on your car.  The second suggests that the falling cows are not necessarily Kamikaze cows or just clumsy, but that they are falling as the result of UFO abductions.

This is something that was further reinforced by a sign in the Taos Cow restaurant.  After spotting these signs in the mountains, we began to see the UFO/cow signs everywhere.
The remainder of that day we spent in Taos to hit all the shops and another brewpub, the Taos Ale House.

The next day we spent in Santa Fe.  Taos is a nice place to see, once.  Its not very big and once you have seen it, there's not much reason to go back.  But after spending the day in Santa Fe, we decided that this could be a place we could come back to.  
We took the "High road" back to Taos which goes more into the mountains instead of running along the river.  Much more scenic.  We get back and make the final brewery stop at Eskes, the oldest brewery in Taos.  Also the weakest line-up of beers.  But they did have a really good chili beer.
The final day started out with Susie saying we were going to have breakfast at Sophia's Place in Albuquerque.  Some place she found on-line.  As we approach it she says "it looks a little run down but the foods supposed to be really good".  A little run down was a bit generous.  Inside is a huge signed poster from Guy Fieri from "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives".  This was one of the dives.  The restrooms were out back.  But it was an excellent breakfast burrito. 
Get the final fill up for the car before we return it and I'm feeling guilty about driving the dirtiest car in New Mexico.  The red stuff the snow plows were putting on the roads when we drove the Enchanted Circle created quite a crust that always made the car very easy to find in the parking lot.  Fortunately, the gas station has a car wash so I decide to get it cleaned.  Its one of those little automated affairs in a garage at the back of the station.  Everything goes along just fine until we get to the blow dry sequence.  A mat drops down in front of you that says drive ahead slowly.  I do.  But the exit door is closed.  And the bumper is hitting the door before the windshield can touch the mat.  The blower is still running and if I give it just a bit of gas, I can see the garage door bow.  I back up a bit and the blower eventually shuts off.  Susie notices some colorful buttons on the wall next to the door.  I get out and hit the green one and the door opens.  I don't think that's how its supposed to work, but we're thankful we now have an escape route.  Except for the truck parked in front of the door.  Fortunately, its off to one side a bit and I can squeeze past.
My last tale of adventure will be about the Kansas City airport.  We have a 3 hour layover there.  Getting off the plane, the first thing you notice is the security checkpoint is right there to the left.  The second thing you notice is the area you are in is only about 50' across.  There are a lot of seats for the 4 gates, but no shops or restaurants.  To get to those, you have to leave the "secured area" and come back through security.  We do find an elevator that takes us to the Pork & Pickle restaurant.  Its crowded (because its the only place here) and Susie asks where the restrooms are.  They're back down the elevator in the waiting area.  On the up side, they did have a decent menu and a great beer selection.
After we were done and went back down to the waiting area, I went to the restroom (there was only one) to find a line waiting to get in.  Once in the men's room the line continued because they have only 1 urinal!
I don't know when this airport was built, but it must have been when planes only carried about 30 people.  Mental note here, avoid lay-overs in Kansas City.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Super Heroes & Villains

Halloween 2011
Another one is in the books.  This year the theme was Super Heroes & Villains.  It brought out a whole flock of Batmans & herd of Catwomen. Costumes ranged from the very elaborate to the very simple.
Attendance was down a bit from past years, but we saw some new faces and had our first attendee from Florida.
Your hosts this year were Super Tramp, defender of 1970's & 80's music and his trusty sidekick Superfly, able to put up with all the crap that happens here. Remember what she said, Freddy's dead.
Mike wowed the crowd with his Joker outfit.  Did I say "wowed"?  I meant creeped everyone out.  He hasn't been told to "get away from me" this much since he hung out at the country line dance bar.

We had some new attendees making their inaugural visit.  Phil & Paige finally made it here, and Gary & Babs made the jump from the Half Moon to the Tin Whisker.

The costume contest was a super tough call this year with so many good entries.  Out-of-staters Sherry (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) 
& Becky (Catwoman) did well in the ladies costumes with Honorable Mention & 3rd place.  
2nd went to Chris (Wolverine) in the woman(ish) division 
and Diane (Cruella Deville) took Top Honors.
Men's were 3rd, Dave (dalmatian),
2nd Gary (Super Fly) 
1st Mike (Joker)

The super foods this year leaned heavily toward the sweet side .  I guess all that sugar is needed to help keep up your super powers.  Tarin won the popular vote with her Pumpkin Trifle.
There were wings, meatballs & a plethora of pizzas to help balance out the desserts. 
Limoncello, cherry pucker shots & everclear jello shots were also there to give you a burst of courage and make you bullet proof.

In the Tin Whisker, the Marzen Dotes & Dozy Dotes Oktoberfest, Nit Wit and Possibly Putrid Pumpkin ale were flowing quite freely.  Then for those brave enough, a taste of the experimental Astro's Rauch Rye was poured for a taste test.  A taste was enough.

Halloween night brought a new neighborhood record!  Much to the dismay of the neighbors, 370 Trick or Treaters were counted to our best ability.  At times there were so many kids filling up the sidewalk, steps & porch, that head counts  had to be made as we could see them thin out in the street as they left.  We only had one child refuse to come up the walk this year.  And one little girl who made it through the cemetery only to be freaked out by the smoke bubbles on the porch.

One new prop was added this year. An animated ghost that appeared to be coming out of the window.  The black light giving it it's eerie glow.  A personal favorite, nobody commented on it.  Its all about the bubbles.

 Perfect weather kept the fog low in the graveyard for an extra creepy effect as the sun went down.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An Incredible Evening Revisited

The 2011 edition of our Jimmy Buffett experience did what I thought could not be possible.  It topped last year's amazing treat many times over!  Thanks one again to Nancy's daughter Caroline, we were given the royal treatment that spanned 3 days.  Being included as part of their family is truly an honor.

The trip started on Wednesday with the check in to the Canterbury Hotel and the tour of the Presidential suite by Nancy who would be sharing the suite with Caroline.  Susie & I then went to check out our room, then met up again with Nancy for a wonderful dinner at Harry & Izzy's.

Thursday morning at breakfast brought many of the lucky ones together.  We also finally got to meet our gracious hostess Caroline who had arrived late the night before.  She told us to be in the lounge of Turners around 2:30 that afternoon for some munchies & drinks as we waited for the cars to take us to Verizon.  Sean, Mary, Joe, Gracia, Cathy, Caroline, Susie & I all enjoyed an amazing array of appetizers, champagne & beer as we sat in anticipation of the evening.

At a bit after 4:00, 2 big black SUV's pulled up, and we were on our way to the venue.  We went to the outdoor patio back stage where there was more food & drinks, and when given the signal to go to Caroline's room backstage we filed in through the dining room but ran into a snag.  The "guard" at the door hesitated to let us through and we had to stand in the dining room while we were checked out.

There were many people eating & I recognized one of the background singers when Susie noticed that just in front of her was Mac McAnally.  Looking at the table he was sitting at, I whispered in her ear "if you look to your right, that's Jimmy Buffett"!
Sean, who has met Mac before, says "Hi", and shakes hands with him when Jimmy stands up meet him.  Sean, who was focused on talking to Mac saw another hand being extended to him & was about to give a polite "hi, nice to meet you" when he realized exactly who was standing in front of him.  A very awkward moment had narrowly been avoided.
Because of the guard's hesitation, we all got to shake Jimmy's hand in an impromptu meet & greet.

We were herded back to the green room, where we stayed until we were given the word that Jimmy was ready to take a nap in the room next to us and to keep things quiet, we should go back out to the patio.
Several members of the band were out there and Susie got to really meet Mac and get her picture taken with him.  We finally got to get all the chosen in one place as Gary & Sherry joined the rest of us.  Nancy even got Tom & Julie out of the rabble of commoners outside and join the chosen within the fence.

As show time approached, we all found our seats in the 3rd row, front & center.  Amazing seats, amazing show!  They played some songs we've never heard played here before, and some they haven't done in a while.

 We were told that when "Fins" was over, we all had to get backstage and into the waiting cars.  The encores would be after that and as soon as they were done, the band rushes to their awaiting vehicles and we're in the police escort out of the parking lot.

People lined the exit road, all awaiting the caravan & hoping to get a glimpse of somebody famous.  Mary in our car, & Sean in the second car rolled down their windows and were yelling & thanking the crowd like they were part of the band.
After we all arrived back at the hotel, we went across the street and took over a whole corner of Steak and Shake for a late night snack.

It was an unforgettable night, and will always be deeply indebted to Caroline and her amazing generosity.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vacation 2010

Our big adventure took us to Tybee Island & Savannah this year.  We stayed in the Savannah Beach House, a B&B on Tybee Island.  A beautiful home that sits on Officer's Row.  A series of impressive homes built for the officers of Ft. Screvin.
The unusual weather that usually precedes our arrival actually came with us this year as the Savannah area was hit with a cold snap that left us a bit unprepared for the 40 degree temperatures.  However with some clever layering of most of what we brought along to wear, we were able to wait out the warmer weather that was to come.
Our trip down didn't start out too well as we had to go to Chicago from Indy to get to Savannah.  Our schedule only gave us about 30 minutes in O'Hare between flights.  Then when our plane left about 15 minutes late for Chicago, we knew we had no time to spare.  That was actually an understatement.  We deplaned in the B terminal, and when we found the board telling us were our next flight was, it was panic time.  It was in the E terminal!
We ran through the majority of the airport when we met a courtesy cart taking an elderly lady our way.  As we kept up with the cart, the driver asked where we were going & when did our flight leave.  He told us to hop on & he hit the gas & the horn taking us right up to the very empty gate.  As we hopped off, the attendant at the gate asked "are you the Barnharts?  I can't believe you made it!"  They held the door for us and we were the last two on the plane.
Upon arriving in Savannah, we decided to treat ourselves to a haunted pub crawl that evening.  Our guide wasn't the most lively we've had, which you would think would be good for a haunted tour, but he was a bit boring.

Sunday we spent mostly exploring what the island had to offer.  We took a tour of the lighthouse, and met a very nice couple.  Carol & Don along with their friend Glenn were doing a lighthouse tour and Carol was a bit leery of climbing the stairs.  Don & Glenn started up, and Susie told Carol we would be glad to go with her at whatever pace she wanted and stop as often as needed.  She made it to the top, and once we all got back down found out she is an artist too & Susie & her swapped info.
Monday we spent the day being shown around Savannah by one of Susie's oldest friends Cindy.  Cindy has lived in Savannah for about 12 years and her expertise on the finer points of historic Savannah were questionable.  She did introduce us to the best bar I have ever had the pleasure to be in called the Distillery.  Any bar that has a personal approval by Sam Caliogne of Dogfish Head Brewery has got to be good.

 They had beers on tap that I didn't think you could even find on tap.  Avery Kaiser, Marahaja & Czar.  Stone Vertical Epic '09'09'09...I was in heaven!  We ended up the day in the Crystal Beer Palace, another fantastic selection of beers I've never seen.  It was a good day!

Tuesday we spent almost the entire day on the beach.  Walked it pretty much from end to end & back again. You never know what you may find washed up in the sand.    
fish head
no idea 

Susie was even attacked by a horseshoe crab.
Wednesday was spent at Ft. Pulaski and got a very interesting lesson in the Civil War.  It was the first time "rifled" cannons were ever used in battle.  The fort that was designed with the help of a young Robert E. Lee, was built to be "bomb-proof" by the technology of the time.  And when the Union army went to lay siege to the fort, they were fairly confident that it would stand anything that could be thrown at it.  Everything would change in 36 hours.  The new rifled cannons would change the face of military defenses.  Forts would become obsolete.
the beginning of a "box" to be blown away

Due to the increased accuracy of a spinning projectile, the Union cannons could carve out boxes in the walls and blow great breaches in them allowing access to the inside if the fort.
The fort is completely surrounded by a moat that comes complete with an alligator.

There are still some cannon shells sticking in the walls of the fort.
After the history lesson ended, we went back to Tybee for a dolphinless cruise with Captain Howard.  It was a pleasant backwater cruise on his boat that unfortunately didn't produce any dolphin sightings, but we got to see parts of the island we normally wouldn't have got to see.
We did however find the cottage and car we will get as soon as we win the lottery.

As an afterthought, its not good to leave Susie in the salt water too long.