You all know how I like to tell you about all the quirky places in the state of New Mexico? Well, about the quirkiest place you can find is perhaps the city of Roswell.
Due to no fault of its own, really, Roswell’s claim to fame is space aliens. Yep, you heard that right. In July of 1947, The Roswell Incident took place. An Unidentified Flying Object, a UFO, crashed at a ranch outside of Roswell, NM (quite a ways from Roswell, actually). Or so the story goes.
Once officials were notified, the military swooped in from Walker Air Base (the Air Force base was decommissioned in 1967), gathered up all of the evidence and the alien bodies, threatened folks to keep their mouths shut, issued a cover-up story about a weather balloon and….
Well, the mystery and stories about what really happened in Roswell have persevered. And, the city of Roswell itself has firmly grabbed hold of their alien connection and you can see it all over town. It’s a pretty spectacular example of taking the odd tidbit you’re known for and running with it.
Roswell is home to approximately 50,000 people, making it the fifth largest city in New Mexico. And the city itself has a pretty rich history. It is the county seat of Chaves County and if you’re interested in aviation or rockets, Roswell has a lot of interesting people in its past, including Charles Lindbergh, Robert Goddard and more recently, Felix Baumgartner. New Mexico Military Institute is in Roswell and there are lovely museums and restaurants and plenty of places to stay, but I’m here to talk about the aliens.
If you find yourself in Roswell, fuel up at Big D’s Downtown Dive and then throw yourself right into alien culture. Aliens are literally all over the streets of this town and they will provide you with lots of fun photo taking opportunities.
There’s perhaps no better place to start than the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Right on Main Street, the museum will provide you with a timeline of all of the action along with UFO art, stories from abductees, and some life sized alien replicas.
This was the first time that I popped into the Research Center portion of the building. Let me just say: If you want to read all things about aliens, UFOs, and etc., this is your place.
Want to up your alien experience to the next level? The City of Roswell hosts a UFO Festival every year in July.
I’ve driven by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRA) outside of Socorro many times. The NRAO is home of the Very Large Array (VLA) or a set of giant satellites that in my mind were always aimed at space searching for alien life. That’s not exactly true and probably came more from the movie Contact than it did from any actual research on the VLA.
Let me preface this entire blog post by saying I have a very limited understanding of anything more than mildly scientific.
I’ve driven by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRA) outside of Socorro many times. The NRAO is home of the Very Large Array (VLA) or a set of giant radio telescopes that in my mind were always aimed at space searching for alien life. That’s not exactly true and probably came more from the movie Contact than it did from any actual research on the VLA.
Anyway. After having a presentation canceled, my co-worked and I decided to treat ourselves to an afternoon of not working. Neither of us ever having actually been to see the VLA we headed down to check it out.
The VLA is about 50 miles outside of Socorro and it’s pretty much in the middle of a high desert with nothing else in sight. Turns out that was an intentional decision when construction started on the very large array in 1973. The giant satellites of the NRAO collect radio waves from space and these radio waves are very faint. And, when you are trying to collect faint radio waves from space, you need to be in a quiet and open area…hello New Mexico. The flat area outside of Socorro is also surrounded by mountains which act as nature’s buffer to ambient sound.
The sounds are so faint and the telescopes so sensitive that you’ll be asked to put all electronics in airplane mode and then power them off while you are here. You are allowed to briefly power things on to take photos (while in airplane mode).
The visitor center has several interesting displays that will help people without science minded brains (like me) to understand the basics of what goes on at the VLA. In a very non-scientific nutshell: the VLA uses the giant radio telescopes to collect radio waves from space. A giant supercomputer then compiles all of the data from all of the different telescopes into composite photos that allow us to see what space looks like. It really is pretty amazing and the visitor center has several incredible photos that came from the data that’s been collected. In addition to providing insight as to what space looks like, astronomers use this data to track asteroids, watch exploding stars and investigate black holes.
That’s where my understanding ends. There is a documentary that plays in the visitor center as well as some on-demand videos in which some very science-y guys attempt to explain what goes on at the Observatory to people like me. No one answered my two burning questions: how much do these beasts cost?! My guess is somewhere in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And, has anyone ever broken one?
The best part of our visit was the walking tour. (Guided tours are available – check the website). You will have an opportunity to get outdoors and get close to one of the VLA’s radio telescopes. These 230 ton monsters can be moved on special loading trucks – provided that the winds are no more than 20 mph. Employees use jacks to lift the dishes up off of the bases. They are then lowered onto these specialized trucks that can move the radio telescopes along 40 miles of railroad tracks on the NRAO property. The telescopes travel at no more than 5 mph on the tracks to their new location. This allows the VLA to adjust the arrangement of the satellites to suit their needs. You can check out the current configuration of the VLA here: https://public.nrao.edu/vla-configurations/.
What do most people think of when they think of New Mexico? It’s always interesting to hear the opinions and, sometimes, misconceptions of the people I meet across the country.
I’ll admit, when we moved to New Mexico in 1982 I thought my mother had lost her mind and moved us to the surface of the moon. New Mexico is….different. I don’t mean that in a negative way. While the state has its challenges, just like every other state, the fact that New Mexico is different is what makes it special and there is no other place to notice the different than in the land itself.
Most people don’t realize that New Mexico contains such a wide and varied landscape. I suspect most people think of the desert when they think of New Mexico and we’ve got desert – plenty of high desert to be precise – but we also have prairies, buttes and mesas, red rocks, canyons, and mountains. New Mexico mountains are the southern end of the Rockies, you know. The sunsets in this state will blow your mind…
We’ve also got sand and rocks. Hear me out.
Last week in Southern New Mexico, I visited one National Monument where I’ve been many times before and one state park that I’d never visited. Sand and rocks.
Sand comes in the form of white gypsum at the stunning White Sands National Monument located just outside of Alamogordo. As the website claims, there really is no other place like it on Earth.
White Sands is a gypsum dunefield. Gypsum is a fine, white sand and that sand has been deposited in the Tularosa Basin over hundreds of years to form what is now the national monument. I’m no geologist so if you’re interested in actual detail of the formation of these sand dunes, check out the White Sands National Monument website.
The dunes encompass some 275 square miles and the monument preserves the majority of those dunes. You may have seen sand dunes before. The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado is beautiful, but it isn’t White Sands. As the name indicates, part of what makes White Sands so stunningly beautiful is that the sands are white – duh.
You need sunglasses while visiting – believe me. The New Mexico sun bouncing off the bright white sand is akin to being out on a snow covered mountain in the sun. You can’t squint enough so break out the giant shades before you start rolling into the park. (And water. Please take water with you.)
You can drive through the park and take in the beauty from the car, but if you really want to experience the monument you need to park the car, get out and climb a dune (yes, really!). It’s the only way to experience the magnificence of this place and it’s a great quad workout. Stand a top a dune and take it all in. Sit or lie down in the sand. It’s like the best beach in the world (minus the water). Bring a sled (or rent one at the visitor center) and hike up a dune and slide down. I had fond memories of sledding here as a kid. A friend and I visited White Sands a couple of years ago and we brought our sleds. You don’t go as fast once your butt has reached adult-sized proportions and it’s a little scary staring down the side of a dune, but we sledded any way and laughed our adult rumps off in the process. On this visit I saw an older couple with sleds, sliding slowly down a shorter dune with huge grins on their faces. That’s what it’s about. Get the sled – you won’t regret it. (There is an entrance fee of $20 a car. Or, do as I tell you and get a National Parks Pass already).
In the southwestern corner of the state, nestled between Deming and Bayard lies a little state park called The City of Rocks.
My colleague and I decided to stop on a whim after some meetings. I had heard about this place from a friend of mine who has family in the area. “Stop there,” she says. “It’s really beautiful.” Really? Rocks, beautiful?
She’s right. As you drive into this park you see….nothing. Nothing at all until you come to a small vista at the entrance of the park and then you’re pretty blown away.
The City of Rocks is just that. An outcropping of volcanic rocks standing high in an otherwise flat portion of New Mexico land. (Again, not a geologist so check out the website for in depth rock information). There is a $5.00 day pass fee here or you can camp at the site for the incredibly reasonable amount of $14.00 a day.
We took a spin through the visitors’ center and then headed out to hike among the giant rocks. You can’t really get lost as the rocks are all centered in a small area, but you can run into rattlesnakes in this area so be aware. As most places in New Mexico, please take a hat, some sunglasses and water. (I can’t tell you how many people I encounter hiking in the desert without water. Get a backpack and take it with you. Every time).
That’s the name of this funky little year-round resort town in Sierra County, New Mexico.
Famed for its hot springs, this town changed its original name, Hot Springs, to Truth or Consequences as part of a publicity campaign to advertise a game show. The story goes that a popular game show, Truth or Consequences, was looking for a way to advertise its 10th year anniversary in 1949. They decided that finding a town in America that would change its name to Truth or Consequences would be a flashy way to gain some publicity. The call went out to cities around the country and Hot Springs, New Mexico applied and won. In March of 1950 a special election was held to change the town’s name from Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences. The name change passed 1294 in favor, 295 against and the host of the popular game show flew to the newly named town to broadcast an episode of the game show – on April Fools Day. The publicity stunt worked and the name stuck.
In 2019, Truth or Consequences is known more for Elephant Butte Lake, hot springs resorts, art galleries, and the newly arrived Spaceport America. Approximately 6,000 people still live in Truth or Consequences (we call it T or C for short) and there are a surprising number of things to enjoy in this little city with the big name.
There are a number of hotels in the area, but if you find yourself in T or C, you’d be wise to check out one of the many hot springs resort hotels in the area. On this trip I stayed at the Blackstone Hot Springs lodge. This gem of a hotel from the 1930s has been remodeled with quirky themed rooms. I stayed with Spock in the Star Trek room while my colleague stayed in the Jetsons room (PS: I prefer the Spanish name Los Supersónicos) and my boss in the Superman suite.
The rooms, though themed, are modern, clean and incredibly comfortable. The property boasts a handful of hot springs tubs located in the common areas of the resort, but the best part of this hotel is that most rooms come with their own private hot springs tub. That means you can soak to your little heart’s content, in whatever bathing attire you like, in privacy.
Star Trek Room
Star Trek Room
Rates are incredibly reasonable and the Blackstone has a lodge cat: Boris.
Now I’m not sure what your thoughts are on him personally, but Ted Turner also has a resort hotel in T or C called the Sierra Grande. While we didn’t stay here, we did eat at the restaurant which features a nice selection of New Mexico beer and wine. The menu is varied and features everything from wild game to lighter fare. I enjoyed a spa bowl (red quinoa, kale, sweet potatoes, chicken and a spicy peanut sauce) and a delicious slice of chocolate cake (ok, and a couple of glasses of wine – everything in moderation, right?)
There are lots of shops to explore and a surprising array of restaurants. I’d recommend the Passion Pie Cafe for breakfast. It’s small and crowded but the food is great. And, if you’re up for something out of the ordinary, the Pacific Grill, which serves both Chinese and Mexican food alongside a salad bar, is surprisingly good.
T or C is also lake adjacent. I have fond memories of camping and boating at Elephant Butte Lake. Sadly the last several years of New Mexico’s drought have taken their toll. Here’s hoping more water starts flowing again soon!
I haven’t been yet, but Spaceport America is a stone’s throw from T or C. New Mexico is probably a really great place for a Spaceport:
I’ve started writing to you as I sit in Los Angeles. When I was a teenager, I was just convinced that I was going to move to California, attend UCLA, get an amazing apartment in the city and work as an interior designer. Then I actually went to LA.
I’ve started writing to you as I sit in Los Angeles. When I was a teenager, I was just convinced that I was going to move to LA attend UCLA, get an amazing apartment in the city and work as an interior designer. Then I actually went to LA and decided that it just wasn’t the place for me, for a variety of reasons. I still feel that way today when I get stuck in awful traffic or when the smog is so bad you can see the air.
Being in LA always brings up memories of my first time in the city. We had just graduated high school and my two best friends and I hit the road west. None of us had very much traveling experience at that point. We got rear ended in Tucson and didn’t know enough to insist that the police be called, even though the driver at fault insisted otherwise. We ate our first whole lobsters in San Diego, somehow navigating the green tomalley. We drove in big city California traffic. (Driving in LA traffic led Chelle to come up with some very creative obscenities – one of which we still joyfully use today). And we got lost in East LA.
For as much as I dislike the traffic and the smog, LA makes me smile. I’m week two into a stretch of work meetings on the West Coast. And while, I won’t have time to get out and about in LA while I’m here (I’m actually in Norwalk), I did get a few free minutes last week to sightsee at one of my favorite West Coast locations, Seattle.
With a presentation in Federal Way, WA, I had a few morning hours to kill before I had to get to work. I’m a lover of flowers and if you Google things to do in Federal Way, this pops up: Rhododendron Species Garden. This lovely little non-profit garden exists specifically to conserve the Rhododendron species of flowers. The garden is fairly large in size – large enough that early on a Tuesday morning, I didn’t run into another soul. It’s a quiet piece of real estate in a bustling and busy metropolitan area. As I wandered the path, I found myself pondering the tall trees that you find in this area of the country. The sheer size of them makes me feel small, but it also makes me feel closed in. If you stop and think too long about the heavily wooded forests and what might dwell within them…well, I can creep myself out – Bigfoot anyone?. I suppose I’ve just grown accustomed to living in an environment where I can see miles ahead in every direction.
If you’re seeking a quiet spot or if you are a Rhododendron enthusiast, make a stop at this garden. It really is gorgeous. Just keep an eye on the trees.
By now, you also know that anytime I can theoretically get myself to the ocean, I will do it. Close to my hotel in Federal Way lies the spectacular beach of Dash Point. State Park access to the beach is available (be prepared to pay a nominal fee) but I crossed over the water into the Puyallup Indian Reservation, parking instead at a town park located right on the water. It was a typical Washington day (read: cloudy and rainy).
A few people were fishing off the pier and one grandmother and her granddaughter in her wellies were braving the wind and rain to splash in the water, my kind of people. After admiring the water for a bit, I took a quick walk up the beach, my eyes on the sand for my favorite treasure – sea glass. I found four pieces of glass and one very weathered nickel. Not bad for a quick trip. I have plans to return to search for more.
If you’re in the Seattle area for longer than a minute, there are several amazing sights to see and don’t shy away from the touristy stuff! Pike’s Market, the Space Needle and the Seattle Underground Tour are some of my favorites. But don’t limit yourself to just the touristy stuff either.
The last leg of this trip is to one of my favorite cities ever: Portland, OR. Sadly, I didn’t have much time here this week either, so look for a Portland post in the future.
Iowa. Why on earth would one write a travel blog about Iowa?
Iowa. Why on earth would one write a travel blog about Iowa?
I am writing about Iowa because I had to be there (for work). There’s a lot of corn in Iowa. A. Lot. Of. Corn. And, that opinion comes from an Indiana girl! But besides the corn, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the very interesting sights in the Cedar Rapids area. Read on.
I flew into the Eastern Iowa Airport (it’s tiny) for a work presentation the next morning. After my presentation was over at 11:00 AM and my flight out wasn’t until 7:00 PM, I had to find a few things to occupy my time. Luckily, I have lots of experience finding things to do in small cities around America.
Cedar Rapids, lies on the banks of the Cedar River and is the second largest city in the state. The motto of Cedar Rapids is “The City of Five Seasons.” What’s the fifth season do you suppose? According to the Wikipedia web page for the city, the fifth season is “time to enjoy the other four.” Insert eye roll here. I won’t hold it against you, Cedar Rapids.
Cedar Rapids is perhaps best known as the home of artist, Grant Wood, painter of the well known work of art, American Gothic. And Cedar Rapids is American Gothic crazy. Wood, born in Anamosa, moved to the Cedar Rapids area as a boy. Although he was a prolific painter, Wood is most well-know for American Gothic which is reproduced in many different forms throughout the Cedar Rapids area. You can see a tile mosaic in the ladies room at
the Eastern Iowa Airport, but my very favorite
is the American Gothic Barn. The barn, located right off of US Route 30 on the way to Mount Vernon, Iowa, is on the south side of the highway and is hard to miss. The sides are painted like a prairie and the front of the barn painted to replicate the Wood masterpiece. You, of course, will want to pull over to take a look and probably a photo. Just take care as you are on a busy route.
If you want to learn more about Wood, I’d suggest a trip to downtown Cedar Rapids to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. This museum houses the largest collection of Wood’s works. (Note: you will not find American Gothic here. It resides at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Now, if you’re like me and you cannot resist the draw of an historic mansion, Cedar Rapids has a great one in Brucemore.
I missed the opportunity to tour this beauty by one day – Tours only run March – December. This 19th Century mansion sits upon a 26 acre manicured site and it is spectacular. Home to three Cedar Rapids families since its construction in 1884, the last family had lodgings added for their pet lion – you read that right…. Built in the Queen Anne style, the 21 room home, housed three families until it was gifted to The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The house and grounds now serve the community in several different capacities.
I made a quick stop at May’s Island in downtown Cedar Rapids. It’s here, on this tiny island where the civic buildings are housed. I read an article that Cedar Rapids is one of only three cities worldwide that have government buildings located on an island in a river. (Paris and Oslo being the other two – so there you go). There isn’t a whole lot here, but the history is interesting and there is a gorgeous Federal Building in the Beaux Arts style.
On my way out of town, I made a decision to stop at the Czech Village and I’m so glad I did. Cedar Rapids had a large population Czech, Slovak and Moravian immigrants. The families, that began arriving in the mid-1800s, settled in this section of Cedar Rapids. Today, Czech Village is a restored street of what was the shopping district in this area of the city. The history and the charm is still prevalent and bakeries, antiques shops and other businesses line the street. The Czech Village was a lovely place to walk around a bit before my flight home. Stop in at a few of the shops to pick up some fun (and well priced!) antiques. If I hadn’t been limited by a suitcase and a flight, I might have come home with several pieces of furniture!
Looking for ways to help clear my mind and my heart and my energy, I finally decided to indulge a curiosity of sorts and scheduled a Reiki appointment.
So much for that whole writing more often thing….but, in my defense, 2018 has been kinda busy. At the beginning of the year, I was determined to keep everything in life organized and under control. Life answered back with a big HA!
January came with some work travel, including a trip to Fresno, CA. After checking into my hotel room at about 2:00 PM, I ventured down to the front desk several times between 2:00 and about 6:00 PM when I became hungry for dinner. I wondered where the front desk clerk had gotten to, but hunger overtook my curiosity. Determining that there was literally nothing to eat in walking distance (and me without a car), I called Uber Eats to deliver some take out Chinese. It arrived quickly and was hot. As I opened the bag, excited to dig into my Chow Mein, I quickly realized that there was no silverware in my bag. No fork. No spoon. No chopsticks. I again wandered downstairs hoping to swipe a fork from the breakfast area (Locked. Damn it.) or find the front desk clerk to help me find a utensil (Still missing. Damn it.) . Out of luck and still without utensils, I settled down into my room to figure out how to eat Chow Mein noodles and chicken with my fingers. My best friend called mid-meal to see how I was settling in. As I told her my sad story, I was met with a “Well, you’re probably ok unless the zombie apocalypse starts.” To which I countered, “This part of Fresno looks exactly like the kind of place the zombie apocalypse could start.”
In January, I flew a total of 11,924 miles and spent 11 nights in hotels. Work travel had me in such exotic locales as Chandler, AZ, Patterson, Fresno and Turlock, CA, Shreveport, LA, and Spokane, WA.
February was not quite as busy. 8,910 miles and 6 hotel nights. Sun Prairie, WI, Ogden, UT, Cheyenne, WY, Santa Fe, NM and Iowa City, IA.
Cheyenne was something of a personal healing trip. Looking for ways to help clear my mind and my heart and my energy, I finally decided to indulge a curiosity of sorts and scheduled a Reiki appointment. (Let me interject with two things here. #1 Reiki is an ancient Japanese tradition in which a Reiki practitioner works with the energy in your body. Think of it as an energetic massage, if you will. If you believe that all matter is energy at its core, Reiki makes a lot of sense. #2 I believe in all things woo-woo and am interested in anything that helps connect me to the spiritual plane….sooooo, I believe in stuff that some of you might term “weird.” That’s ok with me. I’m on my own journey and it doesn’t bother me one bit if you never ever want to try anything woo-woo or weird).
On my drive from Denver to Cheyenne, a pit stop was made at the Terry Bison Ranch. In all the times I’ve driven to Cheyenne, I’ve never stopped. This particular blustery and cold day was maybe not the best day for my first stop, but I did get a quick walk around and spent some time in the warm gift shop. (Mittens the cat will follow you about in there. A sweet little feline that apparently drives the shop keeper nuts because she’s constantly trashing displays.) There’s plenty to see at the Terry Bison Ranch: bison, of course, camels (yes, camels), horses, cats, chickens. Rumor has it that there is a cute little train that takes you around the ranch, but it was too cold to attempt it in February. After a bit of walking about, it was off to Cheyenne for some food, a tarot card reading – Cheyenne is full of woo-woo – and ultimately my Reiki session.
If you’ve never been to Cheyenne, WY, it’s kind of a fun little Western town. There are a lot of historic buildings and it’s worthwhile to wander about a little. If you walk enough, you can indulge in my favorite, really not at all healthy, Sanford Pub and Grub – home of all things fried. Downtown Cheyenne is also home to the Cheyenne Big Boots, an art installation spread throughout town.
Back to Reiki – because I know most of you are sitting there completely perplexed. My Reiki session started with a little bit of a chat with my Reiki practitioner (who is also a massage therapist and a psychic medium – she’s pretty tuned in) about what I knew about Reiki and what I wanted to work on. About five minutes into this chat, she starts asking me if I’ve been having pain in my left shoulder. She’s spot on. I just saw my massage therapist at home about shoulder pain. My non-woo-woo massage therapist attributes the pain to the number of push-ups I’ve been doing in my new HIIT workouts. Reiki says left shoulder pain is an imbalance in my feminine energy. Read more about masculine and feminine energy here. Tightness in hips? Yep…too much sitting in my job and also fear of moving on.
Reiki is much like a massage in which you are barely touched. Fully clothed, you hop up on a massage table. Every practitioner works differently, but mine welcomed questions as she worked. I wasn’t sure what to do at first. Do I close my eyes? Do I focus on deep breaths? Will this hurt? Will I feel anything? . Ultimately I did close my eyes and focused on breathing deeply. It didn’t hurt at all, but I did feel things – a sensation that I couldn’t raise my arms (explained by some past life trauma which made sense to me and explained my current fear of being trapped under deep water – I’ll never Scuba dive) and heat radiating from my therapist’s hands. After 30 minutes of work, some incredibly personal details talked about and my chakras balanced, I was done. Sent off with some suggestions to work on the flow of feminine energy and a great chakra meditation for me to listen to on my frequent plane rides, I headed back to Denver. Energy work can take some time and that night I experienced some interesting dreams, heat throughout my core, and a vast improvement in my shoulder pain, all of which I attribute to my session. Reiki is becoming part of my self-care regimen. And why not? If a little woo-woo energy work can help manage my actual muscle pains, I’m all in.
Never has there been a more appropriate song for a traveling content specialist. The last two weeks has been a crazy run of travel for this working woman!
Here’s what the last two weeks have looked like for me: ABQ > SMF > ABQ > PHX > SJC > SHV > ABQ. Yep, I know more airport codes than your average pilot!
People think traveling for work is glamorous and I guess it can be. Occasionally, you get sent to a big city where you can dress up and have a nice dinner out, but more times than not you’re eating breakfast at the IHOP in Turlock, California. After two weeks on the road I always find myself craving three things: a massage, the time to cook a meal in my own kitchen, and bed sheets that have a thread count higher than scratchy.
I’ve learned a few things in the last couple of weeks:
I think we got the translation wrong. California must be a synonym for traffic.
Inland California is not coastal California.
Somehow an entire stretch of I5 smells like oatmeal.
Minus LAX, California airports are pretty nice.
Learning to drive in Albuquerque has proven to be incredibly helpful as an adult when facing crazy traffic.
The San Jose airport has massage chairs that beat me up just as good as my actual massage therapist.
Never stay on the 11th floor of a hotel when the gym is on the 12th floor.
Southern women have a way of ripping rude people a new one while sounding exactly like that’s the last thing they’re doing.
P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma is the best album I’ve heard in a long time.
Prop planes and high winds aren’t a great combination.
I didn’t get out to see much in the last couple of weeks. That’s not like me, but the conditions and timing of these trips weren’t quite right for sightseeing. I have discovered a new love of taking photos out of the plane window, however. They’d be better if I could access the cockpit, but I understand that’s frowned upon.
Lured by the promise of a cheap vacation and time on the beach in exchange for two hours of my time, San Diego seemed like a great idea.
Lured by the promise of a cheap vacation in exchange for two hours of my time…..
Hilton has been trying to convince me to buy a time share for years. (And I have been trying to convince myself to finish this blog post for months. New Year’s Resolution #258 – write more timely blog posts). Their latest attempt included a good deal on a stay by the Pacific Ocean, so I decided to give up two hours of my time in exchange for a mini vacay.
I love San Diego. I have daydreams about moving there until I remember that I’d never afford the real estate and that I have California traffic…traffic be damned! There’s a beach to get to and sea glass to hunt for!
Our first night was just north of San Diego in Carlsbad. Carlsbad is kind of a family summer-by-the-sea kind of location. Legoland is here. A giant outlet mall is here. Lots of timeshares are here. Maybe not the best location if you’re looking for some quiet solo time or a romantic couples weekend, but there are also a few choice beach spots and some great restaurants up and down the coast.
Now, if you are a little ocean crab like me, you should know that the Pacific is not really known for being a warm body of water – it’s especially not warm in December. (Yeah, December. I’m working on that new resolution). Cold water or not, it’s so nice to walk along the ocean and enjoy it. Plenty of Californians agree with me and while we didn’t see too many swimmers, we did run into lots of surfers and beachcombers – both two-
and four-legged. The California coast is full of public beaches. Literally. Drive the coast and pull over whenever and wherever the mood strikes. Most of the beaches have paid parking so be prepared with cash or credit to pay the moderate fees. (PS: sea glass found!)
Before you make your way out of Carlsbad, stop in and eat at the Green Dragon Tavern & Museum. This place had phenomenal New England food (yep, you heard that right! Lobster rolls….yummy!) and an incredible private collection of Revolutionary War documents and artifacts. The owner of this private collection built The Green Dragon (a replica of the original in Boston) specifically to share these museum quality artifacts and history with the local community. Pretty amazing.
You can cruise easily from Carlsbad a bit further north to the community of Oceanside, where we visited the historic Oceanside Pier and, big surprise, found another great
restaurant. The Oceanside Pier is a (rebuilt) wooden pier. It is one of the longest piers in the state of California and the current pier is the sixth pier to stand it its spot. Enjoy a long walk (off a long pier) and enjoy the breeze of the water. It’s a great place to watch surfers, fish if you’d like, and meet some new friends.
While here, I’d highly recommend Rockin’ Baja Oceanside Harbor where I devoured some delicious seafood tacos and received some sage advice in the ladies room. If you happen to be in Oceanside around the holidays (yeah, yeah, timely posts….), there are Christmas light tours in the marina where people get festive and decorate their boats. There are also plenty of other boat tours, kayaks to rent, and so on….
Now, when you’re ready to head south to San Diego, you can make yourself crazy trying to figure out what to do. San Diego was suffering from some pretty major forest fires in December 2017 so we opted to keep our distance from them. First stop was the Old Point Loma Lighthouse (National Monument alert!). The old lighthouse has been turned into a
museum and on a clear (not smokey) day, some pretty amazing views of the city of San Diego. Definitely worth a stop in my opinion. There is a short uphill trailhead to the lighthouse itself, but most walkers won’t have a problem making the short trek.
Anytime you’re in San Diego, I will recommend that you drive out to at least have a drink at the Hotel Del Coronado (it recently became a Hilton property and it will be crowded but the views and the historic property are so worth your time). They have a spicy margarita here that is SPICY – you’ve been warned. The Hotel Del (if you’re in the know, you drop the Coronado) is on Coronado Island which is a short drive over a bridge from San Diego. In 1888, the Del became the first seaside resort on the west coast and it’s gorgeous (currently hoarding Hilton points in hopes of a girls weekend next December…)
The rest of our time in San Diego was spent aboard some boats. There are many, many boats in San Diego (including some yachts that normal folks like you and me can’t afford). Some of the most incredible ships have been made into museums. Whether or not you are a military history buff, please take time to visit The USS Midway. The Midway is the longest serving Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th Century. It’s humongous – a floating city and there is something for everyone here. We were excited to learn that a WWII vet would be aboard the day we were there – talk about living history.
If you’re into ships with an even older history, San Diego’s got those too at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. This on-the-water museum allows museum goers to walk aboard a variety of ships and submarines, including The Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship. I decided this is haunted boat as well….how? Well, sometimes you just get a feeling……
My last suggestion to you, if you’re not staying at the Hotel Del, stay at a hotel close to the Gaslamp District in San Diego. My choice was the Hilton Bayfront, but there are plenty of choices in all price ranges. (The Bayfront’s pastry chef and staff built a life-sized gingerbread house for the holidays – complete with actual nutrition information.) The historic Gaslamp District has been revamped and now is a great place to spend an evening checking out the shops, bars and restaurants. You can still see the old gas lamps on the streets. Save up your pennies while you’re there and enjoy a delicious steak dinner at Lou & Mickey’s.
Nashville, Tennessee, home to country music and about 2 million people. It’s also host to large conferences, hoards of tourists, and it has become the top city for bachelorette parties – I kid you not.
Nashville, Tennessee, home to country music and about 2 million people (give or take, in the metro area) is also host to large conferences, hoards of tourists, and it has become the top city for bachelorette parties – I kid you not.
Getting from Albuquerque to Nashville takes a good portion of the day. And this trip was my first work trip after quitting a job, getting a job, and etc. I find business travel is always easiest when you’re in the groove – when you’re gone more than you are home and you know exactly what you need to take with you (work uniform – black slacks, coordinating blouse and jacket, sensible heels). When I’m out of the groove, I over pack and end up checking a bag which makes me angry all over again that my ticket wasn’t on Southwest where my bags fly free (and there are no change fees…don’t get me started on my last experience with United).
Airport travel tends to bring out the best and the WORST in people and in all my travels, I’ve seen everything including a lot of things I wish I could unsee. So, before we dive into my short time in Nashville, let me run down a quick list of things I wish I’d quit seeing at airports and on airplanes:
Not everyone should have TSA Pre-Check. I should. I fly a lot, can recite the rules and regulations, wear reasonable footwear in airports, and can get through an open security line in under 20 seconds. People who haven’t flown for 30 years, women who wear heeled boots that lace up over the knee, and people who come through the line with 35 stuffed bags (that won’t fit in an overhead compartment) do not belong in the frequent traveler line.
Women speaking on cell phones in the public toilet. Ladies, nothing is so important that you need to subject your listener to a soundtrack of tinkles, toots, and constant flushing. Call them back.
Also, ladies, can we please make a concerted effort to flush before leaving the stall?
And, please don’t leave your newborn baby in its stroller outside of your stall. I saw this in Phoenix and was horrified.
The top of the escalator is not a good place to stop and have a conversation. Neither is the end of the moving walkway.
All of the seats on the plane will arrive to the destination at the same time. You do not need to crowd the boarding area 20 minutes before the boarding announcement.
Upon arrival, you also do not need to crowd the baggage claim. The suitcases keep coming around and around and around…..
Don’t be crazy at the baggage claim. I once saw a woman in Denver come busting into the baggage claim area, announcing that she was from “mother f’ing Jersey.” That somehow gave her the right to get her “mother f’ing suitcase” off the “mother f’ing carousel” before the rest of us “mother f’ers.” This could be a whole post unto itself, but long story short, she was asked to leave the mother f’ing airport.
On the plane, please get what you need out of your bag before we take off. There isn’t room for you to be up and down and in and out 45 times on an hour long flight.
And maybe, maybe try to potty at the airport. I’m always amazed at the number of people that need to get up to use that disgusting airplane lavatory on a 50 minute flight.
Please try to remain in your own seat. My lap is not for your newspaper. Your feet shouldn’t go under mine. If I don’t know you, I’m not keen on you resting your drooly head on my shoulder. Try not to spread your legs so far apart that your seatmate can’t move (men, ahem). And, if you plan to drink so much that you might pass out and not awaken upon landing, please plan early and get a window seat so I can deplane. (This happened coming home. I thought I was going to literally have to slap the man on the aisle to get him up. Several very sturdy shakes by the shoulder did the trick – thank God).
Both armrests belong to the sad sack in the middle seat. He’s got nowhere to go.
Please exit in an orderly fashion. Jumping up to block the aisle while we’re all waiting to get out of the sardine can does no good.
And one small request, for the love of God, please wear closed toe shoes or have clean feet. Especially in the summer. I hate flying in the summer for several reasons but perhaps the number one reason is that airports across America smell like feet.
Now back to Nashville. I’m in town for a large conference at the Music City Center – conveniently located right across the street from my hotel. On the way into town, I’m blown away by how much Nashville has grown since my last visit several years ago. With work travel it’s always unknown about how much I’ll get out to explore the town, but I did get out enough to experience two things that Nashville is really good at: food and music.
Let’s talk about hot chicken for a hot minute. This is a BIG deal in Nashville, and much like Chicagoans with their pizza, every Nashvillian has an opinion about where you can find the best hot chicken, so ask around. It’s spicy, it’s fried and it’s generally served on a bun with pickles – although I have seen hot chicken kabobs and hot chicken salad…. If you’re not chowing down on hot chicken or barbecue, chances are you have something smothered in pimiento cheese. I’m not sure where this craze came from but people in Nashville cover their food with pimiento cheese like people in New Mexico cover their food in chile.
Downtown Nashville is surprisingly pedestrian friendly. Walking from your downtown hotel to the area attractions is easy and safe. Lots of fountains line your walk. I was fortunate to see a few things in between conference sessions.
If you are a hockey fan, you’re in luck! Nashville is home to an NHL team and the stadium is right downtown. Due to poor planning, I missed my chance to see the Predators in action – maybe next time. Music fans won’t want to miss the Country Music Hall of Fame. Even if you’re not a country music fan particularly, this is an informative and fun, interactive museum.
You must, must, must head to South Broadway (or So Bro as it’s called) to hear some live music. THIS is Nashville. My team and I walked to So Bro to grab a bite (hot chicken and pimiento cheese, of course) and to check out some of the bands on Saturday night. We
ate at the Tin Roof before wandering Broadway a bit. Bands play in literally every bar and honky tonk on the strip, so you won’t have any trouble finding music. You also won’t have any trouble finding your share of intoxicated folks stumbling around. Now, I’m not insinuating all of these people are from Nashville. Tons of tourists stumble around So Bro and, as mentioned, Nashville has become one of the hottest spots for bachelorette parties in the
country. So just be prepared that great music comes with girls falling down in the street and loud and drunken screams from bridesmaids galore…. Once the music starts playing, you won’t even notice.