We traveled through Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas with a way-too-brief of a stop to visit old dear friends along the way.
The first place that I really cracked out a camera was in Oklahoma City at The Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. I only snapped a few images outside in the memorial and absolutely none in the museum. I saw the Memorial back in 2002 and I was unprepared for how profoundly moved I would be. I can honestly say 10 years later, the experience still leaves me raw and open.
The empty chairs are for the 168 people who were murdered.
There is a reflecting pool which is bookended by two walls. One says 9:01 and the other says 9:03. The bomb went off at 9:02.
If you are anywhere near Oklahoma City, it is essential that you visit. Check out their website: http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/
Roadtrips offer many 'non sequiturs' and 'wtf? moments'. This may be one of those times.
The Big Texan Steak Ranch/Beef Megalopolis in Amarillo, Texas was truly a sight to behold and/or comprehend. Check out their website: http://www.bigtexan.com/
They offer a free 72oz. steak! All you have to do is eat the 72oz. steak, a baked potato, a shrimp cocktail, a dinner salad, and a roll. Who can't do that? Just kidding -in the words of the Four-Foot Assassin, "...that sounds 'R-rated' for my stomach...". Kudos to all who can eat their way to free steak-dom!
They even offer limo rides in one of these babies (see the car below, not the cow above)
Amarillo wouldn't be complete with a quick visit to the Cadillac Ranch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac_Ranch along Interstate 40 (old Route 66).
I wish we could have stayed and savored the magic of 10 Cadillacs with their noses buried in the prairie, but we needed to end the day in Santa Fe via Vaughn, New Mexico!
Why Vaughn? Isn't that 30 miles off the beaten path? To that brand of absurd question, there can be only one logical answer: "Warrior need food -badly". -OR- several years earlier, on another adventure through the area, I spied Penny's Diner (http://pennysdiner.us/) and swore someday I would be back to enjoy a meal there.
That day had come. Penny's has just the proper whiff of nostalgia to reward a detour from I-40. A little neon here....
A little countertop action there....
....and some old advertisements here and there! A chipotle chicken and mashed potatoes later, and we were back on the road heading Northwest to Santa Fe.
The first night in Santa Fe we ate at Del Charro Saloon (http://delcharro.com/) due to the 'spot-on' recommendation from the manager at our hotel. (Comfort Inn had just taken over the property from another hotel chain and were diligently making repairs and upgrades to the property). If you are in Snata Fe, go to Del Charro Saloon and try their quesadilla appetizer and blue corn tortilla chicken enchiladas.
We only spent one full day in Santa Fe so we had to cram in as much as two gluttonous slackers could. Santa Fe Plaza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Fe_Plaza) and the artist/vendors outside The Palace of The Governors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_the_Governors) were visited early -along with other sellers in and around the Plaza.
Then The New Mexico Museum of Art: Santa Fe! (http://www.nmartmuseum.org/) This is just a quick shot of their interior courtyard (-love that deep blue New Mexico sky!).
With no delay, and certainly with no wandering aimlessly around, we went to Rooftop Pizzeria (http://www.rooftoppizzeria.com/). The piece de resistance (sorry, no accent marks!) you see below has goat cheese, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and a blue corn crust!
The view from Rooftop Pizzeria.
Or time in Santa Fe was insufficient for exploring art or food. Our last stop for art was at the LewAllen Contemporary (http://www.lewallencontemporary.com/). If you are in Santa Fe stop by their two locations.
Hot air balloons over Albuquerque!
Hatch New Mexico -The chili Pepper Capital of the World! How do you not stop at Sparky's Burgers, Barbeque and Espresso? (http://sparkysburgers.com/) If you are driving through Hatch, New Mexico, Sparky's is a little hard to find, so you need to follow these directions carefully. 1) Drive down the main road. 2) Stop at the place that has all of the cool/crazy stuff outside 3) Go inside and order yourself a Green Chile Cheeseburger as quickly as you can 4) Remain calm.
We stopped around two in the afternoon and there was a line outside the front door. Totally WORTH THE WAIT! A picture inside the restaurant...
With an amazing green chile cheeseburger buzz, it was time to head North on Highway 180 and see City of Rocks State Park (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Rocks_State_Park) for some hiking.
The whole place was formed by a volcanic eruption roughly 1.5 million years ago (imagine a volcanic 'sneeze' and you won't be too far off the mark). The physical park/geological formation is quite localized. If you travel 1/2 mile in any direction, the terrain is noticeably different.
Silver City doesn't want to get left out of the 'cool geological-formation ballgame' either. Here is a shot of 'The Big Ditch' which runs down what used to be Main Street in Silver City (it was first carved out by a big rainstorm in the 1800s).
Lunch at Vicki's Eatery in Silver City before we headed North to explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings in the Gila National Wilderness. This was Vicki's Greek Sampler.....it put up a brave fight, but in the end, it was outgunned.
I normally don't take pictures of myself in the restroom, but hey, you only live once!
Off to The Gila Cliff Dwellings! Here is the approach to the site as we head up the trail.
This was the view the Mogollon people saw every morning.
The dwellings are a series of five caves with multiple structures/rooms (46) built inside.
A pictoglyph from cave 5.
A group of random people at the cave site posed with me for a photo. In order to protect their real identities, let's call them 'Andrew', 'Lori', 'Duggy'.
The year prior, they had a forest fire in the Gila National Wilderness which came very close to the cliff dwellings. This is a view of the burnt forest as we descended the trail back to our car.
On the way back to Silver City, we drove through Mimbres, New Mexico and stopped at the overlook of the Chino Mine. In addition to being a site to behold, I drew an arrow (-in Photoshop, not an actual bow and arrow) towards one of their ore hauling trucks. Look closely at that truck. I am 6 feet tall and the axle on that truck would come up to my shoulder! Wowzer-hausen!
An absolute gem of Silver City and a must for anyone who thinks they know a thing or two about food is a stop at Shevek & Co. Restaurant (http://silver-eats.com/). One of the dining options you can enjoy is to have the chef come out and interview your table on your food/dining preferences, and then Chef Shevek goes back into the kitchen and will prepare as many customized dishes as you can handle. We had a table of 6 people and split 18 tapas over the course of nearly 3 hours. The environment was extremely relaxed and the food is beyond description. Simply put: of all of the food establishments to appear on 'Punching Holes in The Rah-Rah', Shevek & Co. Restaurant is at the top.
Here are a few shots of our food and the restaurant
A good sign of their commitment to pairing foods with the proper beverage.
Hands-down the best carrot cake I have ever eaten.
This was only the first part of the journey. We have 4 states, a Navajo Taco, an Ultimate Carnivore Burger, and a couple of national parks to go.