Santa Fe appeared to be a perfect place to take a rest from sitting in the car. Candacy Taylor’s travel guide “Route 66 Road Trip” says the following: “This is a place that keeps you grounded and ethereal at the same time”. I can only underline it.
We had a great time in this laidback town where we enjoyed delicious food and strolled around downtown, which is characterized by the pueblo-style adobe structures. My birthday was on the day of departure and I woke up to a birthday tune by my singing family and a huge chocolate cake presented to me by the bedside. As my family had prepared a birthday surprise program, we didn’t have much time to eat, and left Santa Fe early morning.
We left route 66 behind us and headed north towards Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. After only approx. 45 min. drive, we arrived at the site of New Mexico River Adventures. What a surprise – a ½ day wild water rafting at the Rio Grande River. As my in-laws up until then were not totally initiated to the plan, my mother-in-law stated: “So this is it, just some calm water in the river and a boat”. I said, “I do not think so, apparently it is a Class II-III river rafting, so I am sure we will get a thrill“. From both her eyes and facial expressions we understood that she actually wanted to join and it did not take much convincing for her to join us. Our children were really proud of their grandmother and so were we. We had a fantastic ride through narrow creeks and eddies and our guide Bradley told us many interesting stories about the river and from the past.
He also pointed out the most beautiful way to continue our travel north and recommended a great place to have lunch – Guadalajara Grill in Taos. They serve very tasty tacos…
Thanks to our children my in-laws improved their electronic skills from day to day. Tirelessly they taught them various features over and over again. Sometimes you could hear from the back “But grandma, I have already showed you many times, now you really have to remember”. She answered, “Be patient with me, I do not learn as quick as you do“. But when it worked out, the joy was big from both sides. My mother-in-law was really happy when she made a new friend – Siri. As she was writing a dairy, she always wanted to know the temperature and the height and this was something Siri always could tell her. Our sons made fun of how she talked to Siri. “Good morning Siri, could you please be so kind and tell me how warm it is outside? and then conclude with a “Thank you very much Siri, that was very kind of you.” To the boys, she said: “You know boys, I was raised to always be very polite to all people I talk to”, they just laughed. Well, during the trip my mother-in-law and Siri established a really good friendship.
As sunset approached, we passed by the Great Sand Dunes National Park and decided to take a detour and it was definitely worth it. I do not know what it was, but it is a somewhat magic place – maybe because of the light or that we were almost alone or the fact that the sand dunes were so huge and unexpected in this type of landscape – we all got really thrilled by the size and beauty.
As we arrived it was already dark and we stopped at several hotels, but there were no available rooms. Finally we found a family (generation) suite for seven at Great Western Colorado Lodge. We checked in, and all being totally overwhelmed by all the impressions and activities of the day, I suggested to have a take-away pizza for dinner.
We took seats at the pool and it tasted just great. It had been another amazing day and now we ended it with my birthday dinner – pizza and red wine in the pool area. I am quite sure, that I will never again have a birthday like that – a spectacular ending of a spectacular day.
Next day we continued north – the Rocky Mountains National Park was the destination of the day. Unfortunately, the weather was not so pleasant – in fact it rained for the first time since we left Montreal. Thus we really spent the whole day in the car (except for a pick nick).
Short of the national park we found a motel in a small village called Hot Sulphur Spring – Ute Trail Motel. It is a classic motel in every way a European would imagine it to be: by the street with many rooms in a row with a bench outside every door. The highlight of the day was our dinner in Parshall Inn (again a great tip from our travel guide) – it was not just the food which was awesome it was also the whole atmosphere; interior design, people and sentiment.
My father-in-law was the one who enjoyed it the most. As a very traveled man he is not so found of museums and typical tourist attractions; he rather prefers to sit down on a bench and just look at the people, see what cars they drive and listen to their conversations, etc… and for this Parshall Inn was just the perfect place. We all felt that we stepped in to the Wild West – the one that is pictured in many western movies. We enjoyed the stay and the kids came to play billiard for their first time in their life.
The following day I went to talk to one of the employees at the motel and she somewhat strengthened my impression from the evening before. She told me;
“This is God’s country very much in contrast to commercial America. Here we depend on each other, we need to stick together and help each other. Only 500 people live here but you rarely see them, maybe only like 20 a day. There are lots of very poor people around here and I admire the owner of this motel very much. She does so much for all kinds of people who need help one way or another. The ones that can’t take care of themselves. Sometimes she lets them stay for free in the motel until they find something else. Right now, she is helping an older man who has no one. In return, he helps her out by answering incoming phone calls for the motel. I myself, also help older people as no one else around here cares for them. I help them to get hearing or teeth aid. I think, only because they are old, you just can’t leave them on their own. I look after my mom aswell, I want her and also the others to have life quality – they deserve it”. She continues, “We also offer people free help with their taxes – for some we managed to get a considerable amount in tax return. It just feels good to do that. To help each other, that is the way it works out her – in real America”.
On our way out of the village we saw the following sign – for us Europeans this really feels like being in a totally other place and again we had got a feeling of how different America is.
We started driving westward and our journey took us on small winding roads through the mountains and by afternoon we arrived in Utah and the stunning Arches National Park. Seeing this remarkable landscape you really get humble by what nature can create.
As we wanted to go to Las Vegas the next day we continue driving and stayed overnight in America’s Best Value Inn in Green River. After having dinner close by at Penny’s Diner, we all (except my mother-in-law who had to jump into the pool with the kids) fall asleep early.
Las Vegas next, stay tuned…