Friday, October 31, 2014

Yellowstone and Geezer VII - The Trip Home and Final Thoughts

October 14 – The Trip Home

Although the first half of our drive home was pretty easy, the second half turned out to be the drive from Hell.  We got up early and were on the road just before 9:00 and got on Interstate 40 to find very little traffic.  It was a little windy at times, but otherwise, smooth sailing.  We got off I-40 in Barstow and headed west on CA Hwy 58 and that’s where the trouble began.

Just before the intersection of CA 58 and US 395, we found road construction and a massive line of cars.  It took us over an hour to go just a few miles before we finally got past the construction zone.  We had a great lunch at the Apple Shed in Tehachapi and thought we would have an easy drive for the final leg of our trip, but that turned out to be not the case.

After going through Bakersfield and getting on to I-5, the wind started to blow pretty hard and dust made it look like there was smoke in the air.  We got off on CA 46 in Lost Hills and headed east and the dust got terrible.  Visibility was very limited and cars were driving very slowly with their lights and hazard lights on, it was a very scary experience.  We finally made it home after 6:00, very tired, but very happy to finally be home.

Final Thoughts

This trip turned out better than expected.  I have been to Yellowstone when I was young, and Val and I have spent a day there several times, but to spend four days there was amazing.  There is so much to see and do, four days isn’t really enough time.  You hear so much about the park that you almost expect to be let down by having it not live up to its inflated reputation, but that’s not the case at all.  The scenery is so varied with the geysers, mud pots, hot springs, terraces, rivers, lakes, water falls, forests, meadows and of course, the animals.  It was also great to be able to stay at the Old Faithful Inn, one of the Grand Lodges of the National Parks.  The weather wasn't the best, but we were prepared as winter comes early at 8000 feet and we knew we were taking our chance this late in the season.  There are still many things we want to see and I hope we can find the time for a return trip.

Grand Teton National Park was also wonderful.  We weren’t able to spend much time there, but we did make the most of our time.  The Jackson Lodge, another of the Grand Lodges, was wonderful and we were treated to an amazing sunset that the staff said was the best they’d seen in a long time.

Flaming Gorge was a great surprise.  We didn’t know what to expect and on the drive down from the north it looked like an arid area with some interesting land formations, but nothing spectacular.  However, the south end of the area turned out to be great.  Spectacular scenery and views, plenty of fall color, scenic drives, rivers and lakes, and even some big horn sheep.  The Red Canyon Lodge also turned out to be a very nice place to stay.

And last but not least, our annual Geezer Gathering was wonderful as always.  Getting together with longtime friends who we don’t see very often is the best thing of all.  We had a great time together, there isn’t much excitement or action (after all, we are geezers), but we get along so well and really enjoy each other's company.  It is the best time of the year and the end to a wonderful trip.

We have been traveling a lot this summer and fall and Val and I are both ready for a break.  We don’t have anything planned until our South American cruise next March, and I expect there might be some short trips, but I think we will be catching up on things at home for a while and I have many, many photos to go through and process.  That’s it for now, see you on down the road.

Yellowstone and Geezer VII - Laughlin, NV

October 12 - Winslow to Laughlin, NV

Today our drive to Laughlin was less than three and a half hours so we were in no rush to leave.  I spent some time walking around the hotel and taking pictures before packing up and getting ready to go.  We were at  Harrah’s (where else?) in Laughlin before 1:00 and once again were happily surprised to see that we had been given a suite, this time on the top floor with a great view of the river.  This is the first time we have ever had a suite in Laughlin.

After getting settled we had some lunch and then spent the rest of the afternoon gambling (successfully I might add).  After our winning afternoon and considering the great room we had, we decided to stay another day.  We checked with the front desk and yes, our room was available so we were in.  Neither one of us was very hungry so we had a snack for dinner, did a little more gambling and called it a night.

We had a nice view of the river and a not so nice view of Bullhead City. 
Val had remarkable luck with one particular penny slot machine. 
Here she has just finished a bonus for $560 in the afternoon.
She went back that evening to the same machine and won a $373 bonus.

October 13 – Laughlin

We slept in and had a leisurely morning before getting out and joining the world.  Our plan today was to take the water taxi up the river to the start of the river walk and explore the different hotels and casinos that lined the river.  It was a beautiful day and not too hot (Laughlin can get VERY hot) which made the trip up the river very pleasant.  We made our way back along the river walk, which took the rest of the morning and early afternoon.   We ate an early lunch along the way as we hadn’t eaten breakfast so we were pretty hungry.  At the end of the river walk we caught the water taxi and made our way back to Harrah’s.  

After a bit of rest in the room we decided it was time for some more gambling.  Although Val continued to be lucky, I had a pretty bad time so I quit early.  Dining options were somewhat limited so we decided to try the buffet which turned out to be pretty good, I didn’t really expect much.

Val continued to do well gambling, but I went up early and called it a night.  Even though I didn’t do well tonight, I did end up the trip with a profit so I felt pretty good about that.  Tomorrow is our last day, although we hate for the trip to end we are looking forward to getting home.  We have done a lot of traveling in the last four months and are looking forward to staying home for a while.

Yellowstone and Geezer VII - Arroyo Seco to Winslow, AZ

October 11

Everyone was up by 7:00 this morning as we wanted to get an early start for home.  After finishing packing and getting the house picked up, we were on the road before 9:00.  Today our destination was the historic La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona.  The La Posada Hotel was the last great railroad hotel built by the Sante Fe Railroad in 1926 for the Fred Harvey Company.  The hotel is next to the present day Amtrak station and travelers can get on and off from the grounds of the hotel.

We didn’t make very good time on our trip south until we got past Santa Fe and picked up Interstate 25 and continued south through Albuquerque where we turned west on I-40.  We were in Winslow and checked by a little after 3:00.   

The La Posada Hotel is really nice.  It is very historic and is very interesting and comfortable.  There are many public areas where you can sit and relax and enjoy the feel of the inn.  Before dinner we walked around and explored the hotel a bit, which was very interesting.  We had dinner reservations at the Turquoise Room, which is the hotel restaurant, and our meal was excellent.  The chef was highly rated and had been nominated for the James Beard award and he lived up to his reputation.  The wait staff is dressed in the style of the early Harvey hotels.  After dinner it was back to our room for a little relaxing and then early to bed.  Tomorrow we travel to Laughlin, Nevada for our last night on the road for this trip.

The rooms are all named for famous people who have stayed at the hotel, but I don't believe necessarily in the particular room they stayed in.
The Turquoise Room where we had dinner.

Sunset behind an engine sitting on the tracks behind the hotel.

Yellowstone and Geezer VII - Geezer VII, Arroyo Seco, NM

October 7 – Day 1

This morning was pretty leisurely as everyone drifted in at different times during the morning.  Nothing was really planned so not much was actually done except talking and working on a puzzle that Val brought.  It was an interesting puzzle as she got all the group pictures that we had taken over the years, created a collage and then had a puzzle made of it.  I didn’t even know you could do that, but it turned out really well, everyone was really surprised.

John and Val working on the puzzle.
They were soon joined by Jack and Steph.
After lunch we went into the little town of Arroyo Seco to look around and have some ice cream at Taos Cow that Bon Appetit magazine named one of the top 10 ice cream places in the country.  Jack and I decided to get some exercise and walk into town, which didn’t seem that far.  It was a little further than we thought, but a pretty easy walk as it was all downhill.  We met with the others and walked around and looked at the shops before heading to the ice cream shop.  I’m not a big ice cream eater so I didn’t have any, but everyone reported that it was indeed excellent.

It was a nice walk into town with plenty of fall color.
We finally made it into town.

Everyone (except me) couldn't wait for ice cream.

Inside Taos Cow, a very busy place.
When it was time to go back to the house Jack and I decided to walk back and let the others drive back.  It was a bit more difficult going back because it was an uphill walk all the way.  We made it and found that John had measured the distance as they drove and it was 1.7 miles so we had a good 3.5 mile walk with half of it being a pretty good workout.  After that, it was more puzzle work and then dinner.  Greg was due to come in later that night as he finally resolved the issues at his office.  He eventually showed up around 9:00 PM and we spent some time catching up with him before calling it a night.  It was a really nice day and we all really enjoyed being together again.

October 8 – Day 2

Today got off to a slow start even by geezer standards.  It seemed like everyone slept in but John and I.  Jack and Steph had gotten up at 4:00 AM to watch the lunar eclipse so they had an excuse, but everyone else was just enjoying a leisurely morning.  After everyone was up and had breakfast it was time to initiate Steph into geezerhood as she had turned 60 this year.  She is the last of our group of six to graduate.  Every year Val designs a t-shirt for the occasion so after the initiation Val distributed those.  After that we decided we would drive the Enchanted Circle, a loop of local scenic roads.

We were on the road just before noon and headed north out of Arroyo Seco to the beginning of the drive.  We started at around 7000 feet and the highest point would be just under 10,000 feet at the Bobcat Pass.  It was a beautiful drive with lots of fall color, especially as we gained altitude.  About halfway through the drive was the town of Red River where we stopped for lunch.  We read about a restaurant called Mountain Treasures Bistro and Gallery and decided to eat there.  They were said to have very good muffalettas and since they are one of my favorite sandwiches, I lobbied to eat there.  Val, John and I had muffalettas and Jack and Steph had beef stew.  Everything was very good and we were glad we stopped there.

Mountain Treasures Bistro and Gallery
The geezers (minus Greg) enjoying lunch at Mountain Treasures.
We continued our drive and climbed higher and higher into the mountains.  The scenery and fall colors were even better at the higher elevations, but as we descended into the Moreno Valley the landscape became more arid and void of vegetation.  As we came out of the valley and started our final descent back towards the city of Taos the scenery and fall color again became very beautiful.  Before returning to Arroyo Seco we stopped in Taos and walked around the plaza.  It was a great drive today, especially all the fall color.


No one was real hungry for dinner so we fended for ourselves eating leftovers or whatever we could find.  After eating, Jack showed us a video he put together of his last two motorcycle trips.  We spent the rest of the evening chatting before calling it a night.  We have no plans for tomorrow as it is supposed to rain so we’ll just play it by ear.

October 9 – Day 3

It rained pretty hard during the night, but by the time everybody got up it had started to clear.  Jack and Steph had gotten a new metal detector and brought it with them, and Val brought hers too so we spent the morning seeing what we could find around the house.  It turned out – not much.  Our biggest finds were a toy car and an old Pepsi can buried pretty deep in the ground.  We also found quite a few nails and some pieces of the metal roof.

Val and Jack are busy looking for treasure as Steph stands by ready to help.
Val thought she had really found something, but it turned out to an old Pepsi can.

As part of her initiation, Steph had to wear a button all week
proclaiming she was now an official geezer.
After lunch we spent the afternoon hanging out around the house.  Tonight Greg and John took us all out to dinner at Doc Martin’s Restaurant at the historic Taos Inn.  The restaurant had great atmosphere and we really enjoyed a leisurely dinner with excellent food.  All in all, a great night, thanks John and Greg!  By the time we got home it was after 10:00 and we all tired so we made it an early evening.

We all had a great meal and a great time at Doc Martin's.  Thanks John and Greg.

October 10 – Day 4

The rain is back and the skies are dark.  As usual everyone got up at different times and it was mid-morning before everyone was together.  We decided we were going to visit the Taos Pueblo today. Steph decided to stay home and relax.  The skies were very dark and overcast, but no rain so we stayed dry.  Our visit to the pueblo was very interesting and we all really enjoyed it.  After having a tasty lunch of freshly made fry bread we headed back to the house and were home by mid-afternoon.

Our fry bread being made.

Very tasty.

I enjoyed my fry bread so much, I split another with Jack.

We did make one more stop on our way home at Taos Cow. 
Greg, John and Jack enjoying their ice cream.
Once we got home we relaxed for a while and then did a little packing in anticipation of leaving tomorrow.  We had an early dinner and then spent the evening talking in front of a warm fire.  This was our last night together and it's always sad to know we will be saying good-bye soon. 

Our last dinner together and the end of Geezer VII.