Three days in the Subaru provided ample time to reflect on our trip, which began at the end of January and concluded in early March. Looking back, most of our AZ and NM activities and excursions were either about exploring Bold Ideas or experiencing Big Nature.
In the category of Bold Ideas, there are 12 that stand out, all of which began with one person’s lofty vision, followed by the wherewithal of a talented and dedicated team to make it happen.
Big Nature permeated every aspect of our trip, from the high plains of Colorado’s Front Range to the massive Sonoran Desert and the sky island region of Arizona and New Mexico. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that the entirety of our trip was Big Nature interrupted now and again by human civilization. Even the cold weather and flooding rains in Phoenix reminded us not to take Mother Nature for granted.
Amazed but not content to be passive spectators, we sought out opportunities for up close and personal Big Nature experiences – hiking in the desert at multiple locations, communing with sandhill cranes at Bosque del Apache, and treading lightly through Kartchner Caverns.
But wait, there’s more. Our three-day drive from Bisbee AZ to Fort Collins is best described as Big Wind. Blustery and relentless, gusty and dusty pretty much the entire way. At one point in New Mexico, we came to a dead stop in the middle of Big Nature nowhere. And there we sat. So we fished out a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter from the back seat and ate lunch while we waited.
After an hour, we learned that the highway ahead was blocked in both directions due to a semi-trailer rollover incident. Since it didn’t appear that traffic would be moving any time soon, we followed the lead of others in turning around and backtracking.
Unfortunately, neither the Subaru navigation system nor Google maps was helpful in guiding us to our destination from this remote area. The suggested routes weren’t roads at all, just gated dirt paths through privately owned ranch land. Luckily, we had brought a paper map with us ‘just in case,’ and one road looked promising even though it would take us miles and hours out of our way.
On this particular lonely 61 mile stretch, we encountered a total of 11 vehicles. #5 was an overturned motor home, while #6 and #7 were pickups already on the scene, including a police vehicle.
Later we saw an ambulance (vehicle #8) and another police car (#9), both presumably on their way to lend assistance. Fortunately, we could detour around the blockage and continue on our way.
Our planned five hour drive from Las Cruces to Las Vegas, NM turned into eight hours – not our best travel day.
Four Highlights on the Trip Home
Even with the challenges of Big Wind, we enjoyed some nice moments on the drive back to Colorado. The first was in Las Cruces, New Mexico where we had an excellent dining and wine-tasting experience at St. Clair’s Winery and Bistro. The winery itself, which is in the Deming area about an hour west of Las Cruces, bottles under two labels – the St. Clair label, aged in stainless steel barrels and finished in oak, and the D.H. Lescombes label, aged completely in oak.
California accounts for 99% of commercial pistachio production in the U.S. New Mexico and Arizona represent the other 1%, and the products are delicious! We stopped at Heart of the Desert visitor center outside of Alamogordo to stock up. Also did a whirlwind wine-tasting and bought a bottle to take home. All in 20 minutes.
Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas NM
Our budget doesn’t accommodate stays in luxury hotels during our travels, so we were pleasantly surprised to get a room under $100 at the historic Plaza Hotel. We had a delightful but short overnight stay on our last night before arriving home.
Our experience with historic hotels has been mixed, but this one greatly exceeded our expectations, no doubt in part due to the extensive renovations that had been completed during the past five years. Add it to your list if you are ever in the area, although I recognize that’s a remote possibility for a lot of folks.
Lunch in Pueblo CO
Our final stop on the way home was to meet my former work colleague Mike and his wife Dotsy for lunch and a catch up visit. We had a delightful conversation, plus it was a nice respite from driving in Big Wind!
Six weeks and 3,357 miles after we left, we arrived back in Fort Collins. The first order of business was spending two hours getting rid of the thick layer of dust left behind from our leaky bathroom pipe repairs. Ugh . . . . Nice to be home, though.
Our next adventure is just around the corner – 7 weeks in Portugal and southern Spain in April and May Have you been there? We would love to hear your thoughts about places to visit and places to skip, plus your best international travel tips. Your comments are welcome!
Here’s a rough map of our route, with Lisbon as our starting and ending point:
Time to say até logo and hasta luego, or see you later. My next post will be from Portugal in a few weeks!