New Mexico and Beyond; Part 2

This was my first time meeting his older brother and though the second time meeting the younger, I didn’t really talk to the younger at the time. Still, I must have made a good, if silent, impression because the boyfriend was told to not screw things up with me back then. Let’s just say that I made a new BFF in his older brother as we commiserated over having to stop by boyfriend’s best friend’s house regardless of original destination (I learned early on not to leave home without a book) and other annoying things boyfriend does. Older Brother ordered us a pizza  for dinner and we were astonished to see that unbeknownst to each other, boyfriend and older Brother have the exact same dinnerware. Then we met up with younger brother at Walmart (where he works) to pick up supplies and visit (it’s actually really weird to have a tour guide at Walmart). We decided to sleep at a hotel that evening so we wouldn’t feel to guilty about using all his brother’s hot water to wash off the grime of 3 days of travel.

On Tuesday, boyfriend got out of taking a good long walk by conveniently forgetting that rolling the front passenger window all the way down causes it to get stuck. He says it was an accident, but the rest of us know that at least unconsciously it wasn’t. But, he had fun pulling out the tools and taking the car apart, though he ended up having a local guy put the new motor in rather than risk seriously cutting himself inside the door panel (he’s on blood thinners). Don’t worry folks, he got to actually use his tools later on in the trip.

While he played with the car, older brother and his wife took me on a walk along the Rio Grande which isn’t far from their house. I can’t remember the native name for the canals that the road we took paralleled, but at two places the Rio Grande curved near enough that a short venture off the road brought us to it’s banks. Banks that were swelled because of the freakish amount of rain that they’d had the day and night before we arrived. Brother and Wife said that they hadn’t seen the water that high except during monsoon season and even then not for the past few years. Brother decided to turn back shortly after the first glimpse at the river, but Wife and I kept going. She teaches writing at the local university and we had fun discussing the Robin Hood character and the fanfiction that she writes about Autolycus from Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. We walked all the way to the border of Isleta Pueblo, which Wife says is probably a good 5 miles round trip. We stopped at a New Mexican (not to be confused with Mexican) food stand so that I could try the difference between “Red” and “Green”. At this stand, I preferred the Red for both taste and consistency, but that evening when we stopped at Henrietta’s Restaurant (which features New Mexican cuisine as well as basic American fair (so that boyfriend and older brother could eat while I tried something new), I went with the Red which wasn’t as good as the Red at the stand. The rice at Henrietta’s was  really, really good!

That evening we stopped by younger brother’s house so that they boys could get their pictures taken (by me) to mark their first visit in a long time. I’m kind of pissed that the 3rd picture is so fuzzy (I used his Android) because it’s my favorite.

Nope, younger and older brothers aren’t twins, though when I posted these pictures to facebook, fb decided on it’s own to tag older brother as younger brother every single time. It was pretty much universally decided that boyfriend is the milkman’s kid (a joke because he looks like their mom’s side of the family and her dad was a milkman).

We ended up staying at older brother’s house Tuesday night.

Wednesday started our vacation proper. We got into the car and resumed our way west into Arizona where first on our list was Petrified Forest National Park. We picked up his Access Pass (free for those who are permanently disabled) here. This is mostly a driving tour, though there are also lots of short hikes (and I’m sure there are long ones too, though I didn’t look for these). We got there at about 2pm.

First was the Painted Desert.

Pictures don’t do it justice.

Then there were the Petroglyphs:

And finally the Petrified Wood:

After leaving the Petrified Forest, we intended to aim for the location of the car accident that claimed his mom and grandfather in 1996 on Hwy 89, but when we stopped at a rest area we looked at the map and saw that the famous Meteor Crater wasn’t too far away and even though it was nearly 5pm, we figured it’d be a fun place to stop for a peek. Well, it turns out that it’s $18 per adult and as we weren’t in the mood to spend that much to take a quick look at a hole in the ground (we were both too tired to want to spend the full 2 hours to feel like we’d gotten our money’s worth), we turned around and continued on our original path. We did like this sign, though:

IMG_0879As did some ladies who were leaving the museum.

As we headed up 89 away from Flagstaff, Boyfriend remembered that his grandfather had been headed away from Sunset Crater Volcano towards the Grand Canyon when the crash occurred. When we saw the turn off, we decided to take the scenic loop that seems to be collectively known as the Wupatki National Monument. It was a wonderful drive with a few stops to get out of the car and walk to see the Pueblos. We probably missed a lot, but the sun was just setting and it’s was a gorgeous view.

We made it the last few miles to the Grand Canyon and Boyfriend is confident that he did locate the crash site (it would have been shortly after taking that loop, just as the survivors remembered). We entered Grand Canyon National Park at the Desert View Watchtower at about 10pm. There were a couple cars in the parking lot as well as 2 RVs that appeared to have bedded down for the evening, so we found a relatively dark place to spend the night (I’m happy to report that when it comes to infrastructure in the US, public parking lots are very well lit at night…ugh). We did do a little walking around before we made up the bed, seeing what we could of the canyon in the dark.

We’d just gotten the bed made up and I was reading some of Sense and Sensibility when we saw red and blue lights in the car’s parking lot (we were in the RV/Bus lot). Turns out that you aren’t allowed to sleep in the parking lot of the Grand Canyon, so everyone got kicked out. Not sure why this concept was so difficult for one of the cars to believe, though. We saw the lights flashing at his car for awhile and even saw the guy turn on his flashers, so we weren’t positive it wasn’t a drug bust rather than a simple “please leave”. After the ranger got to the RV’s and started giving them the formal boot, the car came back to talk to the ranger! Anyway, once the ranger got to our lot, it was pretty clear to us what was going on, so we got ourselves more or less packed away again and boyfriend was just checking the oil while he still had light when the ranger got to us. Oh well. We made our way back the way we’d come in because we were aloud to park as soon as we exited the National Park proper. There’s a big “wide space” where there are about a dozen stands where Native American’s sell there artwork just before you enter Park grounds and that’s where we slept.

In the morning, the Grand Canyon was simply gorgeous! In terms of what’s considered the major tourist attractions there, I think we found the least touristy and we entered it on the less traveled side, which is exactly what we like.

After leaving the Grand Canyon, we made our way south to I-8 because he wanted to show me real desert.

It was pretty until it wasn’t anymore. We went through this part of the country from noon to sunset and while it wasn’t hot in the car or even outside the car (despite the 100 degrees on the thermostat), the sun was just unrelenting. I’m not used to that much sunshine! It made my eyes hurt and gave me a headache even as the temperature was wonderful. I put on sunscreen even though we didn’t get out of the car, just to be safe (by the way, I now have a few new freckles on my right cheek). Phew! I was glad when the sun finally set after we made it into Southern California, which has some interesting landscape itself:

Sand dunes for awhile and then, because California is in the midst of a horrible drought, look at all the water! I couldn’t get a picture of all the cows crowded into pins at the center of these fields.

These mountains of stones look like they were pushed there with a giant bulldozer. Are they even individual stones? I’m not sure….And after 20 minutes of fruitless searching, I still know nothing about these boulders except that there’s a Desert View Tower in Jacumba, CA.

IMG_1117 IMG_1118

We stopped at a Denny’s for dinner this night where I was able to dump this second batch of pictures. In Southern California, we cruised Ventura Blvd for a little bit then he started seriously up 101 (the Pacific Coast Hwy) towards LA. At some point that night he noticed the temperature gauge start to shoot up for a moment only to slowly back down to slightly above normal. We stopped at a Walmart for some antifreeze, but when he went to fill the radiator, he found it full. He suspected that it was just the thermometer sticking and we made plans to stop somewhere so he could buy a new one. Happily for us both, I slept through all of Los Angeles, waking up when he tried to stop at a public beach in Santa Barbara only to be told that it was closed because of the oil spill. He kept going a bit (I fell back asleep) and we pulled into a rest area to spend the night.

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