Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Road Trip to Houston: The Journey Begins

Day 1 - Tehachapi, CA
As always when we travel to the Southwest, we take the short three hour drive to Tehachapi to kick off our trip.  Since it was a short drive we didn’t leave home until after lunch and arrived in Tehachapi around four.  Traffic was surprisingly light for a Saturday so it was an easy drive.  Tehachapi had quite a bit of snow a few weeks ago and we were surprised to see there were still patches around despite the warmer temperatures.  Our favorite spot to eat in Tehachapi is the Red House BBQ and that is where we headed for dinner.  As usual, it didn’t disappoint and we had a good barbecued rib dinner.  After dinner it was back to the hotel for the evening.

Day 2 - Laughlin, NV
Our destination today was Harrah’s Hotel in Laughlin, NV, which is another place we usually try to stay when head east.  We left Tehachapi around nine and once again encountered very light traffic.  Today is Superbowl Sunday so I guess everyone is at home getting ready for the big game.  We arrive in Laughlin around one and were soon in our room.  Our host came through and we were comped a suite, which is always a welcome surprise, thank you Leslie. 

After getting cleaned up we were off to the casino to get in a little gambling and found it very crowded;  now we know why the highways were empty.  Harrah’s was hosting a Superbowl Party for its loyal customers so I guess that drew a lot of people.  We were invited, but Val and I aren’t really big football fans so we decided to pass.  Once the game got underway the casino was much less crowded so that was a plus.  After a while we got hungry and decided to try the new Mexican restaurant opened by Guy Fieri called El Burro Borracho.  It was actually quite good and we enjoyed our meal.  After dinner it was back to gambling where I lost all my allotted funds, but Val actually turned a profit, she did very well today.  We called it an early night as we have a long drive tomorrow, but we did enjoy our short stay in Laughlin.

Day 3 - Gallup, NM
After two easy days, today we have a longer drive all the way across Arizona to Gallup, New Mexico.  To add to the day, we lost an hour when we crossed into Arizona.  We took the cutoff from Laughlin to Kingman, AZ where we got on to Interstate 40 and headed east.  After hitting some heavy truck traffic just outside of Kingman, traffic thinned and it was an easy drive the rest of the way.  We stopped for lunch in Seligman, AZ, which is a major stop for Route 66 enthusiasts.  There are many cafés and businesses keeping the spirit of the old Route 66 alive so it is an interesting place in a very kind of down and out retro way.  After a good lunch at the Westside Lilo’s Café we were back on the road heading east. 

As we rose in elevation and got near Williams, AZ we started to see snow along the road and by the time we neared Flagstaff it was quite heavy in places.  It grew less and less after Flagstaff, but we saw traces of it all the way to Gallup.  We arrived in Gallup around five and after getting cleaned up, we had a quick meal and called it a day.

One small crisis arose today when Val discovered she had left her driver’s license in her purse at home, so she called our friends Doug and Ev and they came through and were able to get the license and overnight it to Carlsbad, NM where we’ll be staying tomorrow night.  Thanks so much Doug and Ev, you are truly good friends.

Day 4 - Carsbad, New Mexico
When we got up this morning the temperature outside was in the twenties, but it was sunny with no clouds.  We had a long drive today so we were up and about and on the road by nine.  We continue east on I-40 until we reached Clines Corners where we finally got off the interstate and turned south on US-285.  Clines Corners was kind of interesting in a roadside attraction kind of way.  For miles and miles before we got to Clines Corners there was sign after sign advertising everything from fireworks to fudge.  We didn't stop, but if you had the time it might have been an interesting diversion.

As we traveled south, the land became very flat and barren with very few cars on the road.  Southern New Mexico is quite different from the more mountainous Northern area, this was truly desolate country.  There were a few small villages looking pretty down on their luck until we reached the large town of Roswell. 

Roswell is best known for a UFO incident in 1947 where there was a supposed UFO crash near the town.  The town definitely has a UFO / Alien theme as the town makes the most of its fame.  There is a UFO museum, but it was closed so we didn’t have a chance to visit it.  We did stop and get gas, which so far has been very cheap in New Mexico compared to California; we paid $1.60 yesterday in Gallup and $1.63 today in Roswell.

After Roswell it was a 75 mile drive to our destination for the night, Carlsbad, NM.  We made good time today and arrive in Carlsbad around 3:30.  We will spend two nights here so we can visit Carlsbad Caverns tomorrow.  We decided to have dinner at the Trinity Hotel, which is an old hotel located downtown.  Despite it being a Tuesday night it was pretty busy.  We enjoyed our dinner and finished it off with a piece of fudge layer cake, which we shared.  After dinner it was back to the hotel for a little relaxation and planning for tomorrow.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Road Trip to Houston: Houston??

As part of my job, when I was working, I made many trips to Houston.  It wasn't my favorite place mainly because it seems like I always went there when it was very hot and very humid.  When I retired I made a list of places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do and visiting Houston was not one of them, so why are we traveling to Houston?

Last fall Val had some medical issues which have been resolved and she is healthy now.  However there are some possible long term issues which might arise in the future as a result of her diagnosis, so she wanted to learn as much about it as possible.  It turns out one of the leading experts in the country is at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston so she made an appointment and we we're on our way to Houston.

As I said, Houston was not on my list of places I wanted to go in retirement, but Big Bend National Park in Texas was, so I asked Val if she wanted to turn this doctor's visit into a road trip and she was all for it.  So on our way to Houston we will be visiting Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and San Antonio, Austin and the Texas Hill country before we get to Houston.  In Houston we hope to have time to visit the Johnson Space Center before we head back west.  On our trip home we will be spending two full days in Big Bend National Park and then since Las Vegas is on the way, we will spend a few days there to end our trip.

We aren't sure what the weather will be like since it is the middle of winter, but we're hoping we will be far enough south to avoid the really cold weather.  We are also grateful we will be avoiding the Houston humidity (I hope).  I will keep up the blog as we go for as long as possible, but as soon as we start taking pictures and adding them to the blog, it becomes more difficult so I expect much of it will be posted when we get home.