Viva las Vegas!

We had a great time with niece/cousin Tara in Las Vegas! She welcomed us into her home, gave up her bedroom to us, and drove us around to some of her favorite spots. We had a tapas lunch and blood orange mojitos at FireFly, happy hour at Red Rocks, brunch at the Cracked Egg. We scored tickets to Absinthe, a fantastic burlesque/ Cirque de Soleil/ comedy show. It's housed in a tent pitched in the garden of Caesar's Palace, and seating starts right up next to a circular stage with a radius of only 15 feet. We were in the second row! Everything they did was right in our face! One wrong move, and all those 15 chairs stacked up on top of each other would topple into the crowd. The strong men were incredibly strong and half naked. Most of the performers were half naked, actually, and the jokes were bawdy. A man and woman team came out with ill fitting leotards and thongs to comically perform on the hanging ribbons. The woman kept getting her legs tripped up and the man slid down the ribbon too fast and planted his face right into the woman's crotch. It was hilarious.

But the highlight of the show was a Russian rollerskating duo, spinning round and round on the tiny platform. The couple would spin each other, at arm's length, so fast that they were just a blur, and then he would lift the woman up and wrap her legs around his neck. He would let go, arms out at the side, at dizzying speeds, and all you could think about was the girl flying off the stage and nailing someone in the face with her roller-skates. It was heart stopping.

The next night, when Tara had to go into work, she dropped us at end of the strip and we spent all afternoon and night walking through every casino. We really weren't inspired to stop at any and have a drink. There are very few happy hours at the casinos, can you imagine? When we did finally stop for a drink at the electronic poker bar at the Bellagio, mainly to rest our feet. The bartender told us we could only have free gin and tonics if we maxed bet on the machines. Don't do us any favors! We weren't going to play $5 a hand for electronic poker just for a lousy gin and tonic.

We made sure to visit the new Swarovski crystal draped lounge at the Cosmopolitan and the Chihuly glass gallery at Aria. We only stopped, grabbed a chair, and ordered some drink when we reached the Parasol Down at the Wynn. It was so nice to be a casino that with happy lighting, windows to the outside world and integrated outside spaces. Parasol Down is outside, next to small lake with a giant white wall that serves as a waterfall backdrop. We were just taking our first sips of our Heritage Sours (a "carnivorous cocktail" with Basil Hayden's Bourbon, applewood smoked bacon infused St. Germain, housemaid maple sour and Paychaud's bitters) when the music died, the lights dimmed, and a giant mechanical frog rose above the waterfall and sang Lowrider. That secured the Wynn as our favorite of the day.

After such a long day, we hopped into a cab and headed out to the M Hotel, were Tara is the F&B Manager of Veloce. The gorgeous restaurant is on the 16th floor, with ceiling to floor windows that overlook all of Las Vegas and the entire strip. We had sushi and dumplings and cocktails, chatted with the delightful bartenders and enjoyed the view. Just before closing time, Tara brought out a desert tray. We protested, saying that we would never be able to finish all that deliciousness. . . but, we did. Ate it all. Tara really, really spoiled us rotten! Isn't family great?

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The Grandest of All Canyons.

When Mary Lou and Nicole set out on this adventure, they didn't really have a plan, per se. We knew the general directions we wanted to go: South, for warmth, then West, to unfamiliar landscapes, North up the West Coast. Reaching Alaska was in the early itinerary, but after research into costs and dangers of the terrain and realizing we would have already been on the road for eight months. . . we ruled it out. Maybe to the North Western most point in the country, then?

We agreed to each other to take it one day at a time. No timetables, no pressures, no problems. But there were certainly landmarks to hit. Art museums, local food joints, happy hours at the fancy places we couldn't really afford to have a full meal at, nature reserves, and National Parks.

Visiting the Grand Canyon has been on our minds since the moment that we left Pulaski. Whenever anyone asked our planned route, the answer would be, "West along the panhandle, into the Southwest deserts, surely, the Grand Canyon, then to the West Coast and up." Grand Canyon was the only real solid, 'have-to' pin-prick in our minds' map. It was a given.

And finally, it was time. We headed North from Phoenix, towards the Grandest of all Canyons.

As we started our drive, it was getting near the top of the hour, and we searched the sparse radio signals for NPR. We found it higher on the dial than normal, just in time to hear that the very first thing that would be shut down if the government couldn't sign the budget, would be the National Parks. Mary Lou and Nicole looked at each other and said, "Shit."

Really? No. . . what are the odds of that happening, really? In two days time, they could close the Canyon? Surely, it wasn't going to happen. We didn't think much more of it on our day long drive up to Williams, an hour South of the entrance to the canyon. We were losing sunlight, and we wanted to make sure that we had a shower and refilled our tanks before we headed into the hook-up less Canyon. As Mary Lou was paying our overnight fee, she mentioned, half jokingly, that we would be leaving first in the morning, to make sure we saw the Canyon before it shut down. The woman replied, "How did you know about that? I've been telling people all day that they better hurry up there. I remember when they shut it down during Bill Clinton's term. It was shut for three months!"

Well, we were thankful we had two days to see it, before the Saturday midnight deadline. We woke up first thing in the morning and headed into the park. We drove straight to the first look-out point, Mather Point, and walked straight to the edge.

It. . . is. . . Grand.

Beyond our expectations, of course. Our imaginings were so. . . inadequate, as to the sheer size of the Canyon. It stretched for miles and miles and miles. We just stood there, riveted to the panorama, letting our eyes adjust to the grand scale of things. Every minute that we continued to look, our eyes seemed to be able to focus on a spot further away in the distance, or on a spot down, down in the valley in front of us. You could register what you were looking at in that exact moment, the sheer cliffs dropping into the valley, the different geological bands of rock, a corner of the green Colorado River shining in the sunlight, but the mind couldn't seem to integrate that bit into a whole picture. It was at least fifteen. twenty minutes before the feeling that 'we've reached the Grand Canyon', finally kicked in. We had reached the Grand Canyon!

Nicole peered through her circled hand, making a frame around manageable bits of the view, trying to get some perspective. A gentlemen, a tour guide for a private group, standing behind her noticed her do this and shared, "The end of that valley you see straight ahead, that's 13 miles away. The bit of the Colorado you can see, that's 3 miles. It's 3,000 feet down to that last drop off before the river, before the black Vishnu rock. Those pine trees, just to your right, that patch has been growing there since the ice ages. Those trees are 100 feet tall."

Objects in Canyon are bigger than they appear.

We went to the RV camping site in the park, parked the RV, grabbed our maps and caught the next shuttle around the park. We headed to the Western section of the park (Hermits Rest), closed to traffic and open only to the Red Line shuttles. It was chilly, but full-on sunshine, so we didn't mind the wait for the next Red shuttle. We hopped off at every other look-out point along the way, speechless and reverent. At one of the earlier spots, past where the guardrail stopped, there was a beckoning, flat section of rock, that seemed to drop away straight down to God knows where. Nicole wanted to see over the edge. Mary Lou wanted to take her picture doing it. Nicole sat down, and slid on her bottom until she could peer over. It was indeed, straight down. Mary Lou said, "swing your legs over the side," which Nicole slowly did. Smile. Click. Nicole enjoyed the view for a minute more, before feeling the wind nudge her at the back, meekly, but enough to remind her that she did enjoy being alive. She slid slowly back from the edge, stood up and started to walk back up to the bus stop.

On the way up the trail, a man walked briskly by Mother and Daughter and said, "What you just did there was like hanging over the edge of a 60 floor building."
"Yeah," Nicole said, beaming, "It's incredible!"
"We lost a woman down that exact spot last month," the man said with a half smile, turned and walked away.
Wait. . . did we just scolded? I think we did. We just got scolded.
It probably was a pretty stupid thing to do. We stayed behind the guardrails the rest of the time. Well, most of the rest of the time.

By the time we finished the Western side of the Canyon, the sky had turned dark, the temperature had dropped, and we heard the bus drivers radioing to each other that 'the storm' was rolling in faster than expected. We had been watching the weather, knowing that a cold front was pushing through, because Mary Lou really wanted to take a helicopter ride over the canyon. High winds, at the front of inclement weather, had cancelled most of the flights that first day, but the operators said that it should be fine the next morning, perfect for a tour. We had decided not to put the money down, and wait and see what happened.

Well, that storm was closing in faster than predicted, and preparations were starting to be made in the park. By the time we switched buses to head back to our RV, it was starting to snow. Big fluffy snowflakes falling onto the pack mules milling around their barn. Falling softly in the pine trees as we walked through the forest back to our RV. We made ourselves some quick dinner, laid in bed feeling really, really small, but happily so, and fell off to sleep.

The next morning, we awoke to a light dusting of snow in the forest and freezing cold toes. Our propane heat had gone off in the night, maybe because we hadn't run the RV long enough the day before to charge the battery. No matter, we were eager to see the East side of the Canyon, where you could drive to most of the lookouts. We had some coffee and eggs, pulled out our hat and mittens, and headed out. Excited to again experience the awe of our first day, we slowly pulled in to the first, and nearly empty lookout parking lot. We bundled up, stepped out, walked a few feet and saw. . . nothing. Absolutely nothing. Pure white. The storm was in the canyon.

We could see the rocks we were standing on, about 100 feet to the right or left, and about 50 feet down. The clouds were below us, rolling up from the bottom, folding over us, and then falling back into the canyon. Every once and a while, the clouds would dissolve just enough to see the closest butte or monument below, but then close back in, and leave us nothing but ethereal whiteness.

At the next lookout, we met a friendly couple, American, surprisingly, since most of the people we had eavesdropped on over the days had been foreign (Russians, Polish, French, Japanese, Indian, were just a few that we could recognize). The couple laughed at our New York plates and said, "Feel like home?" They showed us a small snowman they had found, and then told us that, as we moved East, it would clear up.

At each lookout, it did become more and more clear, and gradually, we could see farther and farther into the canyon. Even with the wash of light, you could still see the slices of different colored rock and minerals slashing across the cliffs. The Colorado River was still the color of jade, and from this side, you could see sets of rapids. We drove as far East as we could, to the watchtower, and savored every last moment of the view. By the time we got in the RV, to head back to our campsite, the snow had reached us, and it was falling faster and faster. When we reached to the campsite, it was starting to stick to the freezing ground.

We pulled in to our RV spot but remained in the captain's chairs watching the snow fall, and didn't say anything for a while. Mary Lou said what we were both thinking, "If we stay here and it keeps snowing, we won't be able to drive out of here. And, if the heat goes off again, we are screwed. And! if the budget doesn't pass, then they will just come in the morning and kick us out anyway. Maybe we should make a move now, head out of the park."

Nicole concurred, and we started to drive back to Williams, where we were sure there was electricity and propane. We took a moment to jump out and brave the cold and snow to take our picture in front of the Grand Canyon welcome sign. Just a mile or so after the sign, we passed a few stopped cars, hopefully helping the riders of an old Chevy pickup that seemed to have rolled at least once and off the side of the road. Being Upstate New York drivers, we didn't have any problems driving through the snow on the way to Williams, but we were amazed at the number of vehicles that were headed into the park! Maybe it was just regular Saturday traffic, or maybe everyone was trying to get in before it shuts, but we knew they were headed in the wrong direction.

We parked up at the same RV park that we stayed at on the way in, but were too tired to dump our tanks or hook up cable or anything. We just plugged in, turned on the propane and fell asleep. We awoke in the morning to 9 inches of snow on the ground.

Nine inches! We were snowed in. There were only a few other RVs around, but the early risers were outside shoveling off their roofs and a pathway for their wife to walk to the showers. With nowhere to go, and no way to go there, we settled in with some coffee and some good books. But after we saw the tractor plow going around the park, we were reminded that we really needed propane and we definitely had to drain our used water tanks. We shoveled our own little path out of our site and up to the main lodge. They filled our propane and directed us to an open dump site. We pulled out our hose, latched her up and went to pull the valves. Frozen solid. There was no way they were going to open. We looked at each other, "Shit!"

Well, there was nothing we could do, we would just have to leave those dishes in the sink for now, and save our water drainage for the important things like teeth brushing. But, when we got back to our site, we again remained in our captain's chairs, watching out at the horizon, towards the Grand Canyon. It was ominous, dark grey. And the snowfall was clearly not stopping.

Again, Mary Lou spoke first, "It's going to be 22 degrees tonight."
"Is it now?" Nicole said.
The storm clouds on the horizon got darker.
Mary Lou, "All our pipes are going to fully freeze. We should make a move now, to lower altitudes. We're at 7,000 feet! It must be warmer down there."
Nicole, "Down there. . . yes. It must be. But, the pipes are frozen now, and brittle. If we drive, they could break."
The snow fell harder, but still silently.
Mary Lou, "Yeah . . . well, I think we should go."
Nicole, "Okay, let's do it."

Mary Lou drove while Nicole navigated to the highway. The plan was to head West, to Bullhead City, which, on the weather radar, seemed to be a few thousand feet lower in altitude, and about 30 degrees warmer. The first half an hour of driving was pleasant. It was snowing, but the pavement was bare. We listened to a 'This American Life' podcast. Slowly, our visibility became less and less, and Nicole shut off the radio, because full concentration was clearly required. Rounding a corner, and starting down an advertised 6% slope, the pavement was no longer black. Mary Lou knew from the cloudy, slick color that she was in trouble. She was going slow, but she tried to slow down even more. The back end of the RV started to fishtail and she couldn't get any grip. We were in a full sideways slide down the hill. Mary Lou struggled to steer just enough to keep the RV straight and on the road. She managed to point downwards and coax us over to the rumble strip, where we could get a little more grip on the road. Every touch of the brakes sent the backend sliding, so she did her best to just ride the strip.

"Oh My God," Mary muttered.
"You're doing great, Mom."
"Holy shit, Nicole."
"Mom, you've got this. You're doing great. Just keep doing what you are doing. I'm going to go put some boots on, though, just in case."

As Nicole stepped to the back of the RV to get her boots, she looked out the back window to see 4 vehicles, cars and Ford trucks, bunching up wildly in the left lane. It looked as if they had just all seen us, realized that the road wasn't what they though it was, and were trying out their own brakes. One car pulled into the right lane, either thinking he could pass, or realizing he couldn't avoid hitting the car in front, and came close to our back bumper. As the other cars were passing us on the left, a tractor trailer appeared out of the snow, barreling around the curve, and down on us.

"Nicole!" from the front.
"Mom, you can't worry about them. You can't help them. Keep on holding us together."

As if they couldn't see the truck, two of the cars remained in the left lane, with the tractor trailer bearing down on them. One car haphazardly slid itself into our lane, out of the way, but the first truck just stayed in that lane. The tractor trailer was finally trying to slow down, but its back end had a mind of its own.

"It's going to jackknife, Nicole! Oh my God!"
"Mom, you can't do anything about it. Stay on your rumble strip."

By some miracle, everyone stayed on the road. The tractor trailer kept together, and didn't hit the truck in front of it. Everyone carried on down the hill, leaving us to crawl, hazards flashing, as fast as we could without losing control, but not stopping, because we had to get off that hill, so that the same thing didn't happen again.

At the bottom of the hill, we found dry pavement again, which lasted for the rest of the two hour drive. It was still snowing, but we had bare pavement. When it finally stopped snowing, after sunset, we were cresting over the pass to Bullhead City. Looking down, Mary Lou thought we had made a wrong turn, and were in Vegas. The valley was lit up in all different flashing colors. Are we in Vegas? No, this appears to be Laughlin, Nevada, across the river from Bullhead City. We could see at least 12 casinos all in a row. We drove straight to Harrah's, up the hill to the topmost parking lot, overlooking the strip, and we passed out, exhausted.

When we woke up in the morning, we were looking down at casinos and palm trees. Palm trees! We were now at 600 feet, full sunshine and 60 degrees. Were we dreaming? If we were, we were sure as hell going to enjoy it, so we went for champagne, seafood brunch at the Golden Nugget and sunbathing by the pool. None of our pipes had cracked from the freezing and we were alive. We survived the Grand Canyon!

Here are the photos!

Beautiful Things

In Phoenix, at Vir's suggestion, we went to the Living Desert Botanical Gardens. It's the start of Spring, and the cacti were blooming, the hummingbirds were buzzing, the ground squirrels were digging, and the smell. . . mmmm. . . the smell of spring was intoxicating.

Then we went to the Phoenix Museum of Art. Fantastic collection! Very few of the same old tired abstracts, and lots of amazing Contemporary installations beautifully installed next to paintings and mixed media (as opposed to whole warehouses containing only one neon lightbulb installation). Fantastic museum.

Click here for the great photos!


Arizona is a giant playground.

The next morning, we hopped on the tour boat and took a ride around Lake Powell. We went to the Glen Canyon Dam, through Navajo Canyon, and then in to the narrowing, slot canyons of Antelope Canyon. It was sunny and peaceful and beautiful. Rocks are even cooler when there is lots of water around them.

After the boat ride, we took a short drive, and then a mile long hike to see this thing they called Horseshoe Bend. Mary Lou had read about it, Nicole went along for the ride. At the end of the hike, we found ourselves at the very edge of a huge canyon, looking down 1,000 feet at one of the most incredible sights we have ever seen. At Horseshoe Bend, the glowing green Colorado River makes a 280 degree turn. It is awesome. What a world we live in!

There was no way we wanted to stay in that stupid RV park again, so, we just hit the road. We did decide that we had seen enough rock for a while, and needed some civilization. We headed South. We drove through Flagstaff and on to Sedona. Sedona was really very beautiful, lots of mesas and buttes, but covered in the tall, green pine trees of the Coconino Forest. We wanted to stop and walk around the galleries of Sedona, but, we didn't realize how mountainous and narrow the roads were there. It wasn't very RV friendly, so we pressed on South.

Driving with the windows down, feeling the hot sun on our arms, the scent of pine wafting in the windows was so overwhelming and delicious that we felt we needed to be outside. As soon as we voiced this desire to each other, there came a sign for Slide Rock Recreation Park. That sounded about right.

We pulled in, parked, changed into shorts and t-shirts and followed all the people walking into the forest. After a brief walk over some huge boulders, following the sound of screaming children, we came to the bottom of a swiftly flowing stream. All those kids, well, they were upstream, plunging themselves into the freezing cold mountain spring water, and riding and sliding down the smooth rocks. Slide Rock! We get it!

There were so many happy kids, sliding and jumping, and pulling their yuppie parents in with them. We had a blast watching them. Then, got back on the road, and headed South to Phoenix for a big night. It was the India vs Sri Lanka World Cup Cricket match! It just so happened that a dear friend of Nicole's from college, Souvir, lived in Phoenix. A perfect date to watch India fight for the cup, not having won for 28 years.

Nicole figured Vir would get off of work, sleep a little, and then wake up for the match, but, no, it was Friday night, and he was already at the local brew house when we reached town. Nicole left Mary Lou to hold down the fort while she met Vir and friends for drinks, live music, and lots of fun. She made it until the start of the match, which found Sri Lanka up to bat first. Nicole knew there was no way she would be able to stay up all night, especially if Sri Lanka was up. So, Vir took off to watch with the hard cores, and Nicole woke up early in the morning to catch India win the World Cup. Yay!! World Champions, baby! Really, too. . . WORLD champions. Because the world plays cricket (unlike, say, the World Series of baseball. . .), Kyle.

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Four states in four days.

After Albuquerque - New day, new state! We drove through what felt like days and days of mineral streaked buttes and mesas, undulating out of the desert at random angles, some riding on top of hardened lava flows, some white from gypsum deposits. Destination: Mesa Verde, Colorado. We arrived late, so parked at an RV park within view of the mountain access road, behind a barn, with two friendly horses that we fed carrots. It was a beautiful sunset on the butte, and in the morning, a fantastic twisting, ascending drive to the upper rim of the canyon.

Driving around the canyon, we stopped at every overlook to see the old Indian cliff dwellings. To imagine people actually living there, perched atop the canyons, in natural caves, was amazing. We wandered around the Anasazi pit-dwellings. We had a picnic of grilled ham and cheese and guacamole at a lookout from where you could see 8 different cliff dwelling, each housing a 15 - 30 person village. We climbed down wooden ladders into sacred ritual pits. We tried our hand at smashing grains. It was spectacular. We went to sleep exhausted after all the walking and driving.

New day, new state! We planned our route South to through Monument Valley, in the Navaho Nation, Utah. More buttes and mesas and monuments, different colors and angles and shapes than New Mexico or Colorado. Before the sun set, we parked up next to the Cottonwood River, lulled to sleep by the gurgling water running through yet another sacred Native American valley. Peaceful. . .

The next morning was a new day, and another new state! We drove over the border and into Arizona. Headed straight for the Glen Canyon dam and Lake Powell. The RV park, inside the National Recreation area, was absolutely beautiful, but it was the worst experience we have had so far at any park. The first thing we did was head for a much needed shower, which we had to pay $2.00 in quarters for. Nicole enjoyed her 15 minutes, but met a furious Mary Lou on the sidewalk, growling, "Did you have hot water?" Hers was ice cold. When we found our site, we realized that, despite tons of open spots, they put us right behind the bathroom units. And, the sewer plug was stuck. So, we just picked our own spot, with a great view, plugged in, grabbed a bottle of red wine, and headed down to the lake to watch the sunset. Sigh. . .

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Plans? What plans?

For our last day in Santa Fe, we decided to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Niether one of us were a really big fan, but, since we were in O'Keeffe Country. . . It was nice to instantly translate the landscape to the paintings, but we didn't stay there long. We did, however, have a fancy lunch at the O'Keeffe cafe right next door. We had field mushroom soup, duck confit, lam chops, and a chocolate something with homemade cappuccino ice cream. And some wine, of course.

Then, we went for a long walk on Canyon Rd, with over 100 art galleries and studios to browse. What an awesome place. Our favorite gallery of the day was Chiaroscuro, where the manager was happy to stay late and pull out the paintings of Michelle Mikesell, our favorite artist of the day. Love this city!!

But, time to move on. The parking lot that let us stay overnight for free, told us we had to be out by 8:00am, so, we were already on the highway, driving North, when Nicole got an email that a dear college friend of hers lived in Albuquerque. Nicole: "Hmmm…. Mom? is it okay if we change our plans?" Mary Lou: "Did we actually have plans, daughter?" Nicole: "Right on, Mom. Turn her around!"

We stopped at Petroglyph National Park on our back to Albuquerque. Took the two mile walk into the valley, skirting the edge of the lava flow, to find the ancient petroglyphs pecked and carved into the flat lava rocks. Nicole spent a really fun night out with her long lost friend, meeting his beautiful wife, and lovely friends, and listening to some great live music. Good times.

Topless to Taos!

After Carlsbad Caverns, we drove North. We thought it would be fitting to view the Supermoon in Roswell, but there were huge cloud banks obstructing the view, so we pressed on to Albuquerque. We woke up to a massive sandstorm, just a few minutes outside left us with dry, red eyes, so we booked it North to Santa Fe. We reached in the evening, just in time for happy hour at La Boca. We drank Cava and Sherry and ate truffle and egg bruschetta and fried almonds. We made friendship with Teo, a local photographer and discussed installation art, Derek Jarman, and Christian Marclay: The Clock. We caught the setting sun in the central Plaza, and stopped in for another drink at the gorgeous Anasazi Hotel. We eavesdropped on local artists chat with visitors in town to buy new art, throwing out names to find common links.

Did you know that, besides being the oldest state capital in North America, Santa Fe is one of the top three largest art markets in the country? Neither did we! An art lovers paradise. Every shop is a gallery, even the old churches and chapels gift shops were filled with original artwork. The whole city is built of Adobes, earth colored and supported with thick, dark wood beams. Some of the buildings, Palace of Governors, where all the Native Indians sit and sell their wares, were built in 1600!

We started our day at the Museum of Art, a spectacular pueblo revival built in 1917. The building itself was more impressive than the collection it held, so we headed over to the Loretto Chapel, home of the miraculous staircase. Truly. . . a miracle. Built in Gothic style by French architects 1870, as was customary, the choir loft had no staircase. The loft was usually reached by ladder, but since the Chapel was built for an all girl's mission, the nuns held a novena for the help and money to build a staircase for the girls. At the end of the novena, a carpenter appeared and offered to build a staircase. He built the elegant spiral staircase with only a hammer, a saw, and hot water to bend the wood. It has no nails or center support, and only its perfect craftsmanship keeps it aloft. Architects, to this day, marvel at its construction. After the carpenter finished, he packed up his tools, and disappeared without word or payment. It is really something special.

We then crossed over to St. Francis Cathedral, to see the original altarpiece from the original Mission on the site in 1625, which houses The Conquistadora, the country's oldest Madonna (she has 200 outfits). Nicole got bored and wandered outside to walk around the intriquite maze embedded in the stone piazza. Mom wandered around looking at the stained glass and happened across a wooden crucifix of Jesus, with real hair. Real human hair! Bright red, and curly. Apparently, once a year, the most humble and worthy parishioner gets to donate his/her locks. Yup.

We took our buddy Robert's suggestion and had lunch at the Shed. Sat at the bar, right next to an artist we had seen the night before at the Anasazi. He told us about the new Native Indian copper ring he had sought out and bought. The couple next to him were in town from Los Angeles to buy some art and they engaged him to speak about his work. So, we chatted with the girl to the right, Tania Sanchez, a writer. Art people everywhere.

After burritos and enchiladas and margaritas, we hopped the bus up to Museum Hill. We didn't have a lot of time before close, so we split up. Mary Lou went to the Museum of Indian Culture and Nicole went to the Museum of International Folk Art, which was like a giant toy room, filled with over 10,000 folk artifacts from over 1,000 countries. It was a really happy place.

Then, we celebrated an hour that was happy, at the Loretto Inn, another beautiful adobe hotel. We had some more New Mexican sparkling wine by the fireplace, under the giant ram's skull. We soon called it a night, so we could be up early for our next big day.

Topless road trip to Taos! Wheeee rented a convertible, and headed up the low road into Georgia O'Keefe's country. Mary Lou was never a huge fan of Georgia's landscapes with those silly polka dotted hills. But, guess what? They really are like that! Polka dots. It was like we were driving through her paintings!

We stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the fifth highest bridge in the United States. The Native Indians that were selling Kachina dolls and jewelry by the bridge told us that, just two days before, and a few days after the nuclear crisis in Japan, a nuclear scientist from Albuquerque parked his rental car right in the middle of the bridge and then jumped off. 650 feet down to the Rio Grande River. Ouch.

We had lunch at the Stray Dog Cafe at the bottom of the slopes in Taos Ski Valley, stopped in a local cemetery, crawled under some barbed wire to find an ancient sandstone cave, and visited a few more old missions along the way. We drove off into the sunset. . . back to Santa Fe.

Click here for photos!