I love a good road trip, and luckily, I live in a country that is made for road trips! If I wanted to sound cynical, I would say that right now, that’s about the only good thing about this country. But I don’t want to ruin the mood.
We planned our road trip in lieu of our usual summer in Europe, as nobody felt like getting on a plane, flights were expensive and unpredictable, and the immigration policies for both the UK and Germany kept changing constantly. So, a road trip sounded like a good, safe alternative. After almost four months of being stuck at home, we were desperate for a change of scenery and an escape from the relentless Texas summer heat. And who doesn’t like looking at some giant rocks by the side of the road?
Our last road trip five years ago was a big hit with all of us; we travelled from California to Utah, visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the Gran Canyon, and we knew there was so much more to explore. Armed with an annual National Park pass and a massive, comfortable hire car, we packed the dog and teenagers in the car and set off for the long, mind-numbingly boring drive through the fracking and oil drilling landscape of West Texas, past oil pumps and dusty, sandy, desert, roadrunners and tumbleweeds included. Destination: Carlsbad. Our original plan had been to visit the Guadalupe Mountain National Park, right on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but it was closed due to the pandemic. We went to Carlsbad Caverns instead, and Oh My God, what an experience!
I would have been over the moon to just see one cave filled with bizarre sulfuric rock formations, stalagmites and stalagtites (how do we know which one is which, come on, come on, something to do with certain sagging body parts?!), but there were over a 100! It was a two-and-a-half-mile hike through the darkness, descending several 100m below the earth, through various “rooms” that reminded us of Lord of the Rings and I swear are still populated by gnomes and fairies.
From the depths of the caverns, we drove on to Santa Fe, which, surprisingly, sits at an altitude of almost 2200m, which meant none of us was prepared and we all got head colds in various shapes and forms. Note to self: next time, stock up on altitude medication, such as Accli-mate.
I adored Santa Fe, and have earmarked it as the perfect location for a girls’ weekend, once we can travel freely and enjoy all the beautiful museums and attractions, most of which were closed. Georgia O’Keeffe, Meow Wolf, dammit! It has a lovely, earthy, artistic flair, and beautiful scenery. I’ll have to go back there soon. There is so much to see….
On our last day in Santa Fe, S and I enjoyed an amazing hike through the hills around the city, the Dale Ball Trails, and realised how much we had missed this – being active outside, with views over beautiful mountain scenery, able to breathe and not be hidden away in air-conditioned surroundings… The last time I felt like this was back in February, when we spent a long weekend in Tahoe, CA. I’m not a city girl, I’m a mountain girl, that much is certain. Don’t get me wrong, I do love losing myself in a city, but I do prefer to dip my toes in from time to time rather than being immersed in it on a daily basis.
By the time we left Santa Fe and hit the road again, in the direction of Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, our colds had got worse, and we decided to take it easy for a couple of days, and admire the scenery from the comfort of our car.
Mesa Verde was stunning, very different to the National Parks we’d seen so far, and not busy at all! A big shout out, too, to New Mexico and Colorado, for providing a safe, relaxed environment, with plenty of social distancing, mask wearing, special procedures and considerate and patient people everywhere.
Highlights of the first part of the trip:
- The huge underground fairytale world
- Our scenic hike along Dale Ball Trails with an extremely happy dog
- Removing six stitches from my husband’s hip (acquired at the ER after a mountain bike injury two weeks earlier), instructed by my doctor dad via WhatsApp video (“Slow, now left a bit, lift right a bit, no tension, pull up, no, not that way, the other way, yes!”). S survived, and said he hadn’t seen my this happy for a long time.
- Buying a beautiful silver and turquoise bangle from Sissel, a Norwegian jewellery dealer in Santa Fe (whom I would love to interview for my podcast, she just hasn’t responded to my pestering email yet)
- Being spoilt for choice at the lovely Tea House on Canyon Road, the gallery quarter of Santa Fe.
- Admiring the Pueblo dwellings at Mesa Verde
- E slashing a Trump 2020 flag on a parked motorcycle with her newly acquired pocket knife, which sparked a heated debate on how to deal with controversial views and behaviour. Do not try to argue with a 17-year-old…