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.