Madrid, Mah-drid

Tuesday morning I headed out once again to the scenic byway Turquoise Route. My first stop was at Henderson Store, the only recommended shop in Golden, New Mexico according to my Turquoise tourist map from the hotel.

Pulling open the wooden screen door, I walked into a store filled with jewelry, pottery and other gifts. Glass cases ran along the perimeter of the store. It felt like a mix between a museum and a market. I don’t own a lot of jewelry, but the main pieces I wear are my bone gauged earrings and big silver cuffs I’ve gotten from other Native American artists. These kinds of jewelry fit my style, but I did not own any big “statement piece” necklaces. I bought a big, heavy silver and turquoise necklace made partially out of old silver coins, a skinnier turquoise bracelet that is lightweight enough for me to type without taking it off, and a pair of earrings for my sister. The owners of the store were very nice, and patient with me while I looked over each case. It seemed that every time the door opened, they were greeting another loyal customer and catching up with how their lives were going.

I’m the kind of shopper who would rather buy now and exchange later, rather than running around to all kinds of shops and trying to remember what I liked enough to go back and buy. I wrote a check with the biggest number I have ever spent on jewelry, and continued down the Turquoise trail. Henderson store kindly told me that if I found something I liked better from another store, I could come back and return any of their jewelry I had just bought.

The next stop on the route was a town called Madrid, pronounced MAh-drid. This is the kind of town where dogs run around without leashes because everybody knows whose dog it is. I am a very thorough person, and since I was shopping with confidence thanks to Henderson Store, I went to every single gallery that sold jewelry. Many of the gallery owners had that hippy vibe, similar to how I felt in Asheville. Everyone greeted me with a smile and were genuinely interested to hear about my travels. At the second gallery I visited, I learned that almost all of the stores in town would allow me to bring my dogs in. So Snickers and Meeko immersed themselves in art and culture, taking in the sites and drinking from thousand dollar rock fountains. No word on whether the water tasted any better.We even met a gallery owner from Pittsburgh!

We ended up spending 2 hours in Madrid looking through shops and chatting with people. I didn’t end up buying any jewelry from there, as I felt that my Henderson purchases were exactly what I was looking for. As we drove back towards Albuquerque, I started thinking more about what I would want in a jewelry collection. I stopped at Henderson Store again and bought another shorter necklace made entirely of turquoise, and a big silver pendant. I’m sure I will be able to find a big antique looking silver chain out in San Francisco.

The dogs were exhausted, and quickly fell asleep. All my shopping put my schedule back further than I wanted, so we did not arrive in Tuscon, Arizona until 10pm. Actually, in my brain it was 11pm, but apparently Arizona doesn’t ‘do’ Daylight Savings Time. Who knew that a state could pick whether they wanted to change their time? I spent the night curled up with Snickers on an air mattress at my cousin’s (my mom’s side) boyfriend’s place. He had a very sweet 4 month old pitbull mix puppy who really really really wanted to play with Meeko. Unfortunately she was about 40 pounds while Meeko is 16 pounds. It was decided that the play would be too rough for the puffball, so they resolved to barking and wagging tails at each other between a glass door.

In other news, my boyfriend has found an apartment for us! It is a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom vintage looking place that accepts dogs and knows that we are bringing dogs! I still can’t believe that we have a place to live after months of searching, and in some cases, being turned down. Part of me feels like something could still go wrong, but for now I will try to ignore that. This lease doesn’t start until the middle of July though, so we are planning where to live for the next two weeks. Needless to say it will be a long time before I unpack this car!

Location: Tuscon, Arizona

The Hunt for Turquoise

I woke up on Monday with a mission– tired the dogs out and find some awesome turquoise jewelry.

We drove to the Petroglyph National Monument early in the morning so it wouldn’t be as hot. I went to the entrance of one section of the park where, according to their website, a large number of petroglyphs were. (Petroglyphs are an ancient form of writing using pictures to represent ideas. These particular ones were drawn by Pueblo Native Americans.) The rangers explained the whole map, took $1 for their entrance fee, and then they saw the dogs in the back seat. Apparently no dogs were allowed in that section of the park. We backtracked to Rinconda Canyon instead, which did not cost us a dollar.

I was all prepared for hiking with my backpack full of water for the dogs and myself, both cameras, and park maps. What I was not prepared for was what a wimp Snickers would be! Not 20 minutes into the hike she was complaining about how hot her feet were. She shows this by trying to lift all four of her paws up at the same time. The result is looking like she is walking on stilts. Meeko, fur coat and all, was having a great time. She was checking out the rocks with me and greeting other hikers with a big Sheltie smile. We turned back 30 minutes into the trail because Snickers refused to walk anymore. I carried her in my arms as we headed back to the parking lot. Snickers found a shaded bench area and laid down on her side on the ground. I poured some water on the ground so it would run underneath her– she seemed to enjoy that. I know they both got plenty of water to drink before, during, and after the hike, so it made me sad that Snickers really couldn’t handle a more strenuous hike.

After dropping the dogs off in our air conditioned room, I headed out to the Turquoise Trail scenic byway. I grabbed a quick lunch of quiche at Lindy’s Roadside Attraction and then I was ready to shop! I drove about halfway through the route when I realized all of the galleries I had pulled up to were closed. My phone had been out of service for the majority of this rural route, but I finally got to a town big enough where it worked again. It turned out all galleries were closed on Mondays due to being open all weekend. This left me with no choice– I turned around and headed back to the hotel. I was mad that I’d wasted all this gas for nothing, and at myself after I realized that had I gone shopping for Turquoise on Sunday, none of this would have happened.

We had to check out of our hotel Tuesday morning, so the only way to fit everything in was to leave the hotel by 9am and take the dogs turquoise shopping with me before heading to Arizona!

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sunday in Albuquerque

After a much needed good night’s sleep, I spent Sunday afternoon at the Indian Pueblo  Cultural Center. The building and grounds were well designed, and seemed fairly new. I stopped in at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe, a restaurant attached directly to the museum. Sundays offered a brunch menu until 4pm, with a variety of standard breakfast items (like french toast) as well as Native inspired dishes. French toast is a favourite of mine, but I went outside of my comfort zone and picked all Native dishes for my “Build your own Breakfast”. Well, except for the scrambled eggs.

I had some blue corn porridge, which tasted similar to Cream of Wheat, but more jiggly. I couldn’t finish it, but it was pretty good once I mixed in some brown sugar and raisins. Frybread seemed to be a pretty traditional food, it turned out to be a thin, crispy fried bread. Not doughy like your typical carnival fried dough though. The chorizo was some crumbly spicy pork thing, that I didn’t care for. It’s always a little weird to be sitting in a restaurant by yourself, especially as a girl. I tend to get some odd stares, and even surprise when I answer waiters, “No, it’s just me”.

After my brunch, I headed out to the courtyard to watch a Native dance group perform. All of the members were related– the grandmother, the father, his children and even a grandchild! They performed dances and songs from a variety of tribes, not just their own. What I really enjoyed was the history and personal stories the patriarch told in between songs. He also spoke about how traditions have been changed to reflect social changes, for example, more prayer songs have been created to incorporate women. The words for a song for warriors have been changed so that it honors both men and women serving in the military. During their performances of a  song for warriors and a memorial song for loved ones that are no longer with us, I found myself getting chills and tears in my eyes. A few songs later, he recounted a chat he’d had with a man who had watched one of their performances. This man had a reaction just like I did to some of the songs. “I don’t know the words your saying,” the man had said, “but I feel them”. The patriarch explained that many of the songs we heard were like listening to gospel hymns in a church. “So welcome to my church” he concluded.

I thanked them for their performance at the end, and the whole family shook hands with me. They asked where I was from– I guess I can’t pass for a local in New Mexico! I explained about my trip and that I was traveling by myself. The patriarch nodded in approval, “I wish you luck on your journey”.

The rest of the museum was intriguing and I thought all of the hands on exhibits were a great touch for kids. There was a station to try weaving in the Southwest tradition, which uses a unique standing loom. Another station provided clay to make pottery. Many of the artifacts were similar to the Hopi exhibit back in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History, but it was interesting to see the craft work split into the specific pueblos within the different New Mexico tribes.

I finished off the day with some delicious Pho from 2000 Millennium Vietnamese restaurant, where the waitress was kind enough to bring my takeout order outside to me because I was sitting out there with Meeko. The University of New Mexico turned out to be right down the street from my hotel. The campus was very pretty, and the center of it is right on historic Route 66! I loved all the quirky stores and restaurants near by. In some ways it reminded me of some streets in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, I could definitely see myself going to school here and living in the midtown area.

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Another day, another time zone

It took us two days to get from Corpus Christi to Albuquerque. 7 hours one day, 7 hours the next.

After a late start on Friday, we arrived in Fort Stockton, Texas at 1 AM. The choice of hotels in Northwest Texas was slim, but my $80 hotel turned out to be an outside entrance room no better than any “cheap” place I’d been in before. The dogs were tired, but bored and stir crazy. Meeko got into a bark-fest as soon as we settled into the room. The drive itself was incredibly boring, and the speed limit was always fluctuating as we passed through various small towns. I would not recommend it to anyone!

When I signed the receipt for the room, I noticed it said there would be a $100 charge for unregistered pets. I couldn’t remember what their pet policy was or if I was supposed to pay them something else so I just didn’t mention the doggies. At 9 in the morning, when I realized the housekeeping lady was coming, I still wasn’t sure if I needed to be careful with the dogs. As I was leaning out of my doorway checking to see if I could take the dogs out to go potty, the lady caught my eye and saw Meeko’s furry face poking out of the door. The look on her face was all I needed. Within 30 minutes I snuck the dogs out, packed up the car, and at an off-brand bowl of fruit loops cereal. Really, they couldn’t spring for the real thing at an $80 a night hotel.

3 hours later we hit the New Mexico border, welcoming us to the Land of Enchantment. “Are you feeling enchanted back there?” I asked the doggies. Meeko jingled her collar in response. Another sign informed us that we were now in Mountain time. Only a 1 hour difference from California now! The landscape was definitely Southwest. Everywhere there was sand, oil rigs, and scraggly cactus plants. It was so remote that for a while my phone could not connect to any data plan, so no GPS. Luckily it still let me make calls, so my sister confirmed which highways I needed to stay on.

We drove through several towns, many which seemed abandoned. Pueblos where the wooden skeleton was completely exposed, or motel signs that were rusted to the point of being illegible. The dogs were bored and hot, so we stopped at a state park with the word “lake” in it’s name. When I got the entrance I confirmed, “So, there is an actual lake in here?” We walked around for about an hour, Meeko swam and Snickers crashed a family’s camping picnic looking for treats. I had to walk underneath their tent to get her! So embarrassing. Meanwhile Meeko was off playing in the water by herself.

The town of Roswell was interesting, but pretty clear that the whole Alien thing is a tourist trap. I’d like to meet the Mayor who proposed that to boost their economy. “You guys. What if Aliens landed here. No, no, I know they didn’t, but we could say they did! And then we’d put all these corny alien statues and flying saucer models up along the highway. Maybe even an Aliens history museum?? People would totally stop you guys, just trust me.”As much as I love Scifi, I was so exhausted all I could think about was getting to our next hotel and going to sleep for a long, long time.

As we got closer to Albuquerque the landscape began to change. Some sand was red, and the 2 lane highway had turns and hills. In the distance, I could see some of the Rocky Mountains. Then I started noticing the clouds. They were all around me in a wide circle, seeming to float just above the horizon. These were not wispy two dimensional clouds– these were large and in charge clouds, so thick that the bottom of them looked flat and darker grey. It was only once I got to the outskirts of Albuquerque that I finally caught up to those clouds and found myself looking straight up at them.

Though we made the 7 hour drive in 8 hours (not bad considering the doggies), I still managed to run into more frustrations. My phone gps works most of the time in the city of Albuquerque, but in finding my Super 8 hotel in midtown, it was pointing me to the middle of an intersection. Naturally I assumed the hotel must be one of the corners of said intersection. I spent 15 minutes driving down every direction of that intersection. Finally I gave up and called the Super 8. Turns out it was several blocks from that intersection, and up on a hill. Nice going google maps.

By the time I unpacked and got the dogs settled, it was 8:30pm Mountain time and I had not eaten dinner yet. Determined to have a decent dinner, I was delighted to find a Panera nearby. Or so I thought. 1. It was not a Panera but some weird Southwest offshoot called Paradise Bakery 2. My phone gps took me to a Macy’s, which may be in the same mall complex as this bakery 3. By the time I realized both things it was 9:05pm and the place closed at 9pm as did every other nearby restaurant except for Applebees. Not surprisingly it was not very good.

I’m not sure if I am just having a string of bad luck, or if the stress of my housing situation is leaching into the rest of my life. As of right now, I (meaning my boyfriend and I) have still not been able to tie down a lease for a dog friendly apartment in San Francisco and will likely be homeless when I arrive there. He is still actively going to open houses and emailing landlords both in the city and out, but at this point it’s looking more and more likely that I will be continuing to live out of a hotel (and my suitcase) during July.

Meanwhile, I am in Albuquerque for 3 nights, so I will do my best to explore and have fun! I really wish my Super 8 room had a fridge, but the dogs are enjoying all of the ice cube treats.

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Cross country road trip: The Plan

I’ve given a lot of thought into how to approach this road trip. My conclusion is that this is a perfect opportunity for me to explore the Southern states that I have never been to before, and to really take my time. I realize that cross country road trips are usually “once in a lifetime” ordeals, but this is actually my second cross country road trip.

The first one was the Summer of 2009, driving San Francisco to Pittsburgh with my boyfriend, with the express purpose of getting his car to Pittsburgh and going to Lollapalooza. With limited time and money, and no doggies, we took the Northern route, camping at the Grand Canyon without a tent and arguing over who had to drive through Nebraska. This time around, I’ll still have money in mind, but with no job to get to (or concert to be at) I can take all the time I want. I also know that driving by myself from Raleigh to San Francisco, I have to be realistic about how many hours I can do each day.

There are a few places that I know I will be staying longer than one night. The first is my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding in Raleigh– I’ll be there from May 30th until June 4th.  We are staying at a family friend’s house, who I’ve heard also has a dog. Maybe Meeko and Snickers will make a friend?

From there, I am heading to Mt. Juliet, Tennessee to visit my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins. One of my cousins has started a family, but I have never met either of her little boys. I’m very excited to meet my new second cousins! I haven’t seen this side of my family in about six years, but with the potential of being in the South for grad school, perhaps I will get to see them more often.

After that, I’ll be on my own for a bit, going through Arkansas and Mississippi. I’ve driven over the Mississippi river once, but this time, I’m going to find a place to stop and hang out by it. Maybe there is a state park along it so I can dip my feet in? If it’s not too out of the way, I plan to drive through the campuses  of Ole Miss (University of Mississippi in Oxford) and University of Central Arkansas as they are potential MFA programs for me. In my head, living in these places for three years would be a grand adventures, but the realistic side of me says you’d better go check these towns out before you sign any leases!

I’ve never been to Louisiana, and being a huge Anne Rice/Vampire Chronicles fan, I have this image of Louisiana that a mix of the forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and James Bond’s Live and Let Die. I’m very curious to see New Orleans, to see how reconstruction is going and to find Lousiana State University, one of my dream MFA programs, and University of New Orleans. Continuing west, I’ll stop and see McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

After a few days in Louisiana I’ll drive further south to Corpus Christi, Texas where my sister lives. She’s just finished one part of her schooling to become a Navy Pilot! They are deciding which of the planes they want her to fly, which will determine her next step of more specialized training. By this point, I will probably be sick of driving, so staying at my sister’s for a week will be a fun mini-vacation for all of us!

Driving through the rest of Texas, I’ll head up to the University of New Mexico then west through Arizona. I love the landscapes of the Southwest, especially all of the rock deserts.

What happens next is still undecided. Do I drive along the coast of California along the famous Route 1? Or do I avoid any traffic jams by driving through Nevada? Ashwin votes for California, but I know it would be cheaper and less congested to go the other way.

I plan to make posts each night, and there will be lots of picture taking for each of my stops. I’m very curious to see how this trip will go, especially with two doggies with me, but at this point I’ve done all of the planning that I can!

Next stop, West Virginia!