Mid-January is probably not everyone’s idea of a good time to tour the country, but our primary destination is the Southwest, where the weather tends to be a bit more mild than the rest of the country. Besides, it has been over two years since we have visited the New Mexico relatives, so it is time to do this.
A road trip by car is a tale of fuel and food as much as scenery and people. We started our trip on a Sunday, first dropping the cat at the Just Cats Hotel, then spending a few pleasant hours at Ruby Street Quiltworks in Tumwater, with our art quilting group, which involves, of course, a light lunch and coffee at the Starbucks across the parking lot.
Setting off south at 2:00pm, we cruised through foggy conditions until reaching Vancouver, WA, where we stopped for gas and road food at Costco, crossing into Oregon and clear skies for a spectacular view of Mt. Hood before making our way up the Columbia Gorge with the setting sun behind us.
We stopped just after dark in tiny Arlington, at the Village Inn cafe, where Judy had a tasty black bean soup and I had a vegan bean burrito–rice and beans inside, quacamole and chopped tomatoes outside. We can’t get though Oregon without a stop at a full-service station (there isn’t any other kind in Oregon), so we stopped in Pendleton at Safeway. Then, up over the mountains in ice fog with nearly zero visibility, ending the day in La Grande.
The next morning, we left at the crack of dawn, scraping frost off the windshield and soon back in the fog off and on over the Snake into Idaho. A stop in Nampa for fuel and coffee sent us through a winter wonderland of hoar frost and on toward Utah.
The last fuel stop in Idaho, in the “middle of nowhere” listed regular unleaded at $4.30, so we drove on at reduced speed, arriving in Beeville, Utah on fumes, but with fuel at more than a dollar cheaper. By now, we had been fighting headwinds and freeway speeds for two days at 18mpg, about 20% below our usual. We were thinking our decision to bring our tandem bike on top of the car was going to cost us $200 in extra fuel before we were done. Lunch was nuts and fruit in the car, as we had nearly 600 miles planned for today. We pressed on through Salt Lake City in heavy traffic, though light on the MLK holiday, arriving in Provo just after sunset. From our motel near BYU, it was a short backtrack to a bakery cafe, where Judy had a bowl of corn chowder and I had a “veggie pesto” sandwich, actually a caprese panini, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil.
In the morning, we backtracked to Starbucks and then resumed our journey as the sun touched the peaks of the Wasatch Range above the city.
Up the Spanish Fork canyon, we stopped in Price for fuel and yogurt, then south to Green River and Moab, the hiking, rafting, and biking Mecca, which was pretty much closed, between seasons. At Monticello, we stopped for coffee and an excellent roasted red pepper and potato soup at the Peace Tree Juice Bar, one of our “must stop” places on this route.
Topping off the fuel again, though our mileage had started to rise due to prevailing winds and lower secondary highway speeds. we headed east to Durango, where we stayed at the historic Strater Hotel downtown. We ate at the Diamond Belle Saloon in the hotel, Judy had a fusion “Greek” salad, with avacados and other ingredients that don’t grow in the Hellenic region. I had a vegan risotto that came in a trencher bigger than my head. Even so, we managed to force down separate orders of creme brulee on top of all that and stagger off to bed.
After morning breakfast of whole-grain french toast and made-to-order omelette, we retrieved our bicycle from the butlers closet at the hotel and loaded it back on the car, topped off our frozen travel mugs at Starbucks, and headed east to Pagosa Springs through beautiful forested mountains reminiscent of western Montana. Another fuel stop to top off, then south into New Mexico, where we planned to stop at the Ghost Ranch Visitor Center and museums, but the complex was closed, though there was a workshop in session at the ranch itself, a few miles down the road.
We did get a number of photos of the Pedernal, the butte made famous by the Georgia O’Keeffe paintings. Then, on to Espanola, where we had lunch at El Paragua. Judy had a BLT, which included a spicy guacamole spread and fries, and I had a roasted green chile on french roll with “monetary” jack cheese (according to the menu), which was like a chile relleno sandwich, with avacado slices and fries. We then stopped at the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center, where we bought yarn and yet another inkle loom and 3.5Kg of upholstery fabric remnants, from a stash that nearly filled the classroom area, a donation from an Albuquerque fabric outlet.
Arriving in Santa Fe, we made arrangements to visit our granddaughter and the great grandkids the next day, picked up some supplies at World Market. Next, visits with relatives here and in Las Cruces and El Paso over the weekend before heading west to California.