Day Two: Mesa Verde National Park

We are now home from our trip and I was unable to keep up with posting while we were gone due to several stops that had terrible internet connections and then just being way too busy to write!  So we will backtrack a little and fill in the rest of our vacation, which BTW, was a big ole blast!

Rich had visited the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde when he was young and has wanted to go back ever since.  He knew that visitors have to purchase tickets to tour the major dwellings  and we didn’t want to miss out, so we got up early with hopes of arriving in time to catch a tour, crossing our fingers that they wouldn’t sell out.

We had a pleasant and uneventful drive to Mesa Verde, grabbed a quick lunch, and headed for the park.  Since “Seniors” can get a pass to national parks for a reduced fee at age 62, Rich was gleeful that I had already had my birthday and could buy the lifetime pass for $20.  We pulled up to the gate at the park and the ranger told us that they had run out of senior passes so we could just go in for free and pick up the pass at the next national park we visited.  How nice was that?  However, he also advised that we go back down to the Visitor Center to get tickets for the tour rather than trying to purchase them once we got to the dwelling.  It was about 1:30 PM and he thought they were already booked up till the 4 PM tour.  Back to the Visitor Center we went and now the first available tickets were for the 5 PM tour.  Oh well, no biggie, we could see more sights till then.  It takes about an hour to drive from the Visitor Center to the Cliff Palace, so we looked around the center and the gift shop, bought Ally a cap and Aidan a shirt, and then started the drive up the mountain.

Along the way, we stopped at the Spruce Tree House, which was closed due to falling rocks and unsafe conditions.  We were able to get some photos from afar, though.  We stopped at several other lookouts and were amazed just imagining what life must have been like for this early civilization. We also visited a museum which showed dioramas of the various phases of development of the culture and the structures.

Later, we met our tour group to explore the Cliff Palace.  This is one of the most well preserved cliff dwellings, along with the Balcony Palace.  In both, you walk down a narrow, steep incline to get into the structure and then you have to climb ladders to get back out.  At the Balcony Palace, one of the ladders is 32 feet tall and we were not sure if Ally could do it so we chose to view the Cliff Palace instead, where the ladders are only 10 feet tall.

In years past, tourists were allowed to climb all over the dwellings and wander around on their own, but because of the damage done, the major structures are now only seen in tours guided by rangers.  Our ranger was very interesting and informative and gave us lots of background about the dwellings and the people who inhabited them.  Ally was surprised to learn that girls her age were often preparing to be married.  🙂

According to the Park Service website, “the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best preserved in the North American Continent. Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.”

While we were listening to the ranger and awaiting our tour’s turn to go into the Cliff Palace, the group in front of us was being led by a Native American ranger who ended his tour by playing the flute inside the dwelling. We were sitting up on the ridge waiting and had the privilege of listening to his haunting tune from a distance.  Our ranger told us that often Native American groups will participate in tours, bringing instruments to play, sage to burn, and chants to sing.  While these dwellings are important and amazing to all who come to see them, they are especially meaningful and holy to the Native American tribes of the area and beyond.

The kids were very attentive and liked learning about the ancient civilization who lived here.  We could not enter the rooms of the dwelling but were allowed to look through some windows and passageways. Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in the park and has about 150 rooms and 23 kivas (round rooms that were used for ceremonial purposes). It is estimated that about 100 people lived in the dwelling and that it was also used as the center of social and celebratory activities. The tour involved navigating 120 uneven stone steps and negotiating five 8-10 foot ladders on a 100 foot vertical climb. Ally said she was a little scared of the ladders but Grandpa said he’d be right behind her and she did fine.  The final climb was straight up through a very narrow space.  Not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic!

We spent the night in the town of Cortez and the kids were looking forward to going swimming. Unfortunately, the hotel pool had been filled in and made into a furniture store. Bummer!  We went to dinner at a local cafe and had a mishap when a very full soft drink was spilled all over Ally, me, and my new white cardigan sweater.  Oops.  We cleaned up but we were still really wet so we finished dinner and headed back to the hotel where we found four men sitting on a bench outside our door, drinking and talking.  I told Rich I would have to say something to them if it went on too long but they were not very noisy and all went back to their rooms at a reasonable hour.  LOL

Although the hotel did not have a pool, it did have a laundry room so I decided to do some of our laundry and try to get the soda stain out of my white sweater. I asked the guy at the front desk if there was laundry soap available and he said no, they were trying to get to that point.  Now, seriously, why have a laundry room without detergent?!  He suggested I go across the street to a “real” laundromat and see if they would sell me some soap. I walked over and it was closed but the manager was cleaning up, saw me outside, and let me in to buy some soap and bleach from her machine.  SO nice!  I was very appreciative! I went to the laundry room and discovered that there was ONE washer and ONE dryer.  So much for getting several loads done at once!

We had a good night, despite the no swimming situation.  The kids were really good sports and didn’t make an issue of it.  We headed on to Ouray, CO, the next morning, where we would obtain our fix at the hot springs pool.






Road Trippin’ Day One: Santa Fe

We got up around 7 this morning and left Susan and Corey’s at 8, stopping at the local McDonald’s for a quick breakfast before heading out on I-20.  It was raining a little when we drove off, but soon cleared and we had a pretty easy day all in all.

It was about a 7 hour drive, the longest day we will have on this trip, but the kids did great and everything went smoothly.  We played several games in the car and especially enjoyed a scavenger hunt where we had to check things off, such as “a police car with its lights on,” “a motorcycle rider with a beard,” “a driver picking his nose,” “the letter Q,” “a rusty old pickup truck” and lots more.  We saw the police car pretty early in the trip but thankfully it was not coming after us!

With the time change, we arrived in Santa Fe around 3:30 PM.  After checking into our hotel, the kids were dying to get into the pool so we went down for a swim.  Kids being kids, they immediately made new friends and had a great time playing with their fellow guests for awhile.

We got dressed and walked down to a pizza place nearby, then wandered around the square and saw some of the sights near the hotel.  Since it was Sunday, not too many places were open but we enjoyed taking a walk on a nice, pretty evening.  The last time we were in Santa Fe, Aidan was just a baby!

Now we’re just chillin’ in the hotel room and about to hit the hay.  We’re aiming for an early departure to Mesa Verde tomorrow.

Ready for Vacation

We’ve had a busy week getting ready to go on our road trip to Wyoming.  I always underestimate how much time it will take to get everything done and end up rushing around the last day no matter what. But I have to admit I am happy that I don’t have to worry about the weather, plane delays and cancellations, and getting on that little plane out of Unalaska to fly for two days any more!

The garden’s looking pretty good and we’ve harvested more veggies, though I’m disappointed that our eggplant and zucchini and cantaloupe don’t seem to be doing anything.  It’s getting so hot now that I doubt they will produce but maybe they will surprise us when we get back.  The flowers are pretty, though!

We took Elle and Beck to see “Angry Birds” at a fancy theater with reclining seats–what will they think of next?!  The movie was pretty silly but the kids loved it.  Afterwards, we went out for pizza and pasta and had fun hanging out.

I’m trying to be organized for our road trip with Aidan and Ally.  We bought a bunch of snacks at Winco, our favorite socialist grocery store (it’s employee owned) which carries a lot of items in bulk bins.  I decided to pack little snack bags for each day in the car so we wouldn’t have everything out at once.  Then I printed out a lots of activities to do while traveling along–word searches, tic-tac-toe games, “scavenger hunts” where they’ll have to spy various things out the window, the license plate game, and much more.  At Target, I bought them each a clipboard so they will have something sturdy to write on, spiral notebooks, folders, and a few more activities.  Of course, they’ll have their devices if all else fails!


We drove to Clyde today and will leave early in the morning for our first stop in Santa Fe.  Can’t wait!



Busy Days of Summer

We’ve had lots going on!  Rich and I both have birthdays in June–mine is first, on the 13th, and his is on the 21st.  We were born 8 days apart in the same year.  🙂  The grandkids don’t quite get this age thing yet.  Recently Beck asked how old we were and I said we were both 61.  Of course, I am sure he thinks that sounds VERY old.  I then asked him who he thought was older, Grandpa or me.  He immediately said “Grandpa.”  We said no, Gigi is 8 days older.  He could not wrap his mind around it and asked, “How can you be older if you are not as tall as Grandpa?”  He then wanted to know if I was going to get taller than Rich.  🙂

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been wanting to go to Cafe Momentum so Rich and I celebrated my birthday there on Saturday night.  I loved seeing the program in operation and knowing that these young people are getting a chance at a more positive life after having some challenges in the past.  I especially liked the shrimp and grits beignets and the local veggie platter. On the way out, I asked the staff member at the register if they use volunteers but he seemed a little unsure so I guess I will need to follow up with someone at the office later.

Monday night Sarah and Miles took us to a birthday dinner at a place called Filament in Deep Ellum; Bonnie and David also contributed to the meal even though they don’t live here and couldn’t go with us.  We had a DELICIOUS dinner and lots of fun hanging out with Sarah and Miles.  Apparently we were having too much fun because we failed to get any food photos!

Elle made me a sweet bday card; Bonnie recorded her kids singing happy birthday, I had phone calls from all the kids and my Mom, lots of Facebook greetings, texts and messages from family and friends.  It was a good day, though I cannot believe I am 62 and it bothers me a little more than I want it to.  :O Continue reading “Busy Days of Summer”

Retirement is Good!

I was never one of those people who wasn’t sure what she’d do in retirement. I couldn’t really understand the ones who said they didn’t know  what they’d do with themselves or they were afraid they’d be bored. Although I *mostly* enjoyed my career as a social worker and especially liked my most recent stint as development director for our small public radio station in Unalaska, I looked forward to retiring, not having a set schedule or a lot of obligations, and the freedom to do what I felt like doing.

I’m happy to report that, so far, it has played out in much the way I hoped.  Life is pretty leisurely–we make our own schedule for the most part and get to do what we want to do.  We have a few obligations–volunteer work and the garden, mostly, and babysitting on occasion, but otherwise we can pick and choose how to spend our days.  I highly recommend it!

Grandson Beck has been playing T-ball and we had fun watching his games despite the already VERY  hot sun!  Those poor boys had to be burning up in their uniforms.  Son in law Miles was one of the coaches and he was just great with the kids–so encouraging and low key.  Miles played baseball in college and was drafted into the minors after his junior year so he knows a lot about the game, but also about the pressures,  so I think he’s a good one to work with the kids. You could tell he wanted it to be a positive and fun experience for them.

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We get to babysit sometimes and it’s always fun to spend time with the kids.  Last week I stayed with Jack for a little bit while everyone else was gone.  He’s such a sweet, happy baby.  He takes after his Daddy and big brother–enjoys building things (see pic below)!  I stopped by another day and played lost several card games with Elle  (remember “Slap Jack,” “Old Maid,” “Go Fish,” and “Animal Sounds”?!), then we went to get a slushie and to pick up some vacuum cleaner bags for her mama.  I like getting to do these little things that we might not get to do if we weren’t living here.  We’re talking about going to a movie soon–Rich really wants to take them to see “The Jungle Book,” but both Elle and Beck say they think it will be scary.  So we will see.  🙂

Jack building with Legos. Well, Gigi helped quite a bit but he loved it!

My brother Joe and sister in law Denise own several restaurants in Jackson, WY.  Joe is good friends with a Dallas restauranteur and brought some of his staff to train at one of his friend’s restaurants here this week.  We had a delicious dinner and good time visiting with family and friends at Street’s Fine Chicken tonight.

Sarah, Joe and me
Fun group!
Sarah and Miles

Next Saturday we have a required community work day in the garden, we’re mapping out our trip to Wyoming June 18-29 , and trying to get things organized for the move into our house July 1. I’m not sure how I ever managed to have a job and get everything else done, too.  🙂



Hurray for Summer!

School’s winding down and we are gearing up for big fun!  Granddaughter Ally is finishing 2nd grade, where she received reading and math awards and also got honors for “Best Sportsmanship,” “Most Improved” and was the “Super Catcher” for her softball team.  Her mama said Ally has found her sport and LOVES softball.

Ally and her softball teammates

Continue reading “Hurray for Summer!”

Family Fun

My Mom with her 4 kids, 3 of their spouses, all of her grandkids (and most of their spouses) and all of her great-grandkids–5 years ago. There are quite a few more now!

Truth be told, we probably wouldn’t have retired in Texas except for the desire to be near the kids and grandkids.  We’re fortunate to have one family here in Dallas and the other two in Clyde and Amarillo–a little bit of a drive but at least it’s no longer two days of flying to get to see everyone!  It’s great to be a part of the Dallas kids’ day to day lives,  which makes me wish we had the same opportunities with the others. There really is a difference between seeing them on visits and vacations and living in the same town.  On the other hand, hopefully we will now get to see them enough that we are not just “visitors” any more.

Though I hope to have readers and interaction on the blog, the main reason I am doing this is to keep a record of our lives so we can look back on fond memories and reminisce about where we’ve been and what we’ve done.  I started my first blog in 2008 and have periodically had it printed into blog books–we have quite a stack at this point. It’s always interesting to look back and surprising to realize how much we don’t remember! For that reason, I love having this reminder and I hope one day the kids will enjoy having the books for themselves.

It’s too much to try to catch up on several months’ worth of activities so I am just going to post some family photos and a few comments here.

Oldest grandkids Aidan and Ally came for Spring Break and we had a great time! Ally had just turned 9 and Aidan was about to turn 13 so we had a little birthday celebration for them.  Aidan requested a trip to the Flight Museum and we also rode the DART downtown and wandered around (see the Giant Eye?!). Their Amarillo cousins Emery, Luke and Ada came to visit part of the time and we hung out with local cousins Elle, Beck and Jack.  Even attempted a photo of all 8, which was largely unsuccessful.  🙂

Continue reading “Family Fun”