Quest in the Southwest: Day Seven

img_6375-1I’d thought the route home would be Albuquerque–Roswell–Abilene, but it wound up being Albuquerque–Clovis–Abilene. I’d seen an ad for Abilene’s storybook sculpture garden in the copy of Texas Monthly I’d brought with me on the trip (the Hurricane Harvey issue), so I wanted to stop through there on my way home. When B makes the trip west, he always avoids Abilene (memories of a misspent youth, I reckon), so I figured this might be my only chance to visit.


img_6256I packed, found the red rum shot glass and gifted K a bottle of salted caramel Crown Royal, intentionally left the Texas Monthly in the guest room, unintentionally left my coat, and said adios to Dude. I stopped at Durango Joe’s because I had a fond memory of them from my last visit (some sort of pecan pastry that was just heavenly) then took off for Texas. It rained, and I got a photo of the rainbow by sticking my phone through the sunroof (hey, at least it wasn’t the windshield).

I didn’t see much of Albuquerque, but stopped at the Owl Café for lunch. My rudimentary search implied some sort of Breaking Bad significance, but I also had the owl to consider. J, the friend who told me about Kittredge, had given me the owl wallet I carried on this trip (funny that K had also given me a wallet). I was extremely disappointed not to find Albuquerque Turkey on the menu but didn’t want to be the tourist who ordered off-menu, so I had plain old turkey…in Albuquerque.

It rained some more on the way out of town, and people started pulling over to the side of the road near the exit for Las Vegas (New Mexico). Since I was listening to podcasts, not terrestrial radio, I started to worry that I had missed some crucial weather warning. K had told me they didn’t have tornados, but I pulled over anyway, assuming the locals knew something I didn’t. It appeared to be just a giant storm cell, but I was relieved to exit south off of I-40 and stop for a potty/caffeine/stressed-out photo break.

img_6321I drove past the Billy the Kid museum in Fort Sumner and kept on trucking to Clovis. Around this time, I was really feeling the urge to hit up a casino (I’d done well enough to buy us all lunch on my last visit to New Mexico), but luckily, I was well off the reservation and miles beyond any legal gambling establishments at that point. I also learned, a little too late, that 2016’s Come Hell or High Water was filmed in and around Clovis. B and I had really liked this terribly Texan film and were shocked to learn it wasn’t actually filmed in Texas.

img_6323I had to detour around Lubbock and grew very irate. I was starving and the next small town’s “exit here for fast food” sign only listed McDonald’s. Yet the gastro gods smiled on me and revealed a brand new Sonic right off the ramp in Slaton. My, I was pleased to see that.

Sated, I continued on to Abilene, where I got to tour the sculpture garden under the October harvest moon. I was more excited about Halloween than usual, super into the spooky stuff (like The Shining on Audible), but I was not prepared for what happened when I peeked around the corner of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature and saw…Blucifer!

img_6339What the actual hell? It’s an eight-foot exact replica of the demon horse that looms thirty-two feet over the entrance to the Denver airport. Mesteño, my ass. That’s Son of Blucifer. In a place that lured me with promises of beloved characters from children’s fiction. Abilene, why?

I recovered and tried to get a photo of the building with the car in its façade, not even seeing the dinosaur that revealed himself in photos other people had taken in daylight. This was the only time during the trip when I regretted not bringing my fancy camera, although I’m not sure I could have done much to justify the moon.

Siri took me some random way out of Abilene (I really wanted coffee; alas, all the Starbucks were behind me). Driving through a neighborhood to get back on the highway, a black cat ran across my path. I proceeded to scare myself even more as a I finished The Shining in the desolate three and a half hours it took to get home by midnight.

Quest in the Southwest: Day Six


img_6197We spent the morning out at the Bisti Badlands, which is like hanging out on the moon. K’s husband advised that we turn around and take a picture of the horizon as we started out so we could find our way back to the car. We wandered around, did more “butt sliding” than we will ever admit to our respective menfolk, and clocked about four miles. We absolutely did not get lost.

We came back to town, passing a field of pumpkins and a burnt-down rig on the highway, and went for lunch at Mikasa. We both had sushi and I ordered poke too. K had recently learned that liking pumpkin spice made her basic, which cracked me up, so I tried to get her to enjoy a PSL from Starbucks, but in the end, it was me who was basic. We then lounged around the house, barking at Alexa to play songs from our misspent youth: “Alexa, play ‘Flavor of the Weak’ by American Hi-Fi.”

Some of K’s friends came over that night for drinks and pizza, and one of them assessed her Navajo rug as authentic, including the one intentional flaw, which I always thought was done so as not to offend the gods for being too perfect, but might also be to allow malevolent spirits an escape route. The rug was a gift/payment from a client, and I also received a purse and wallet from K’s collection of gifts/payments. The red rum shot glass was christened with apple Crown Royal, since we couldn’t find the salted caramel flavor for the candy apple drink recipe we wanted to try.


Quest in the Southwest: Day Five

img_6177K went to court at seven thirty, and I bummed around the house with Dude. He abides.

K picked me up for lunch, and we stopped by the mall first to get her phone “fixed” at Verizon. I also needed to go to Ulta for a razor and what I had heard was a planet-friendly reusable make-up wipe. It turned out to be a luxury face towel. We had lunch at ¡Que Rico!, which is K’s favorite restaurant in town. I was thrilled to have real Mexican food again after that breakfast in Colorado, and I overdid it with the chips and salsa. I also had a margarita.

We went by K’s office before heading over to court in Aztec. I got to watch K in action as she filed for a dismissal–it was very intriguing and kind of funny. She regaled me with more tales of the legal community on the way back to the house. We watched two of the schlocky horror movies K likes, Afflicted and Crush the Skull, and proceeded to make jokes about them to each other for the rest of my visit. We eventually wound up at a bar in the airport called No Worries. We drank a G&T each on the house, then had dinner on the patio before moving to the tiki bar.

Quest in the Southwest: Day Four

img_6035Went to breakfast at the Paragon and got the photo we should have gotten when we were all dressed nice. Drove B to the airport in Denver and received a toll road bill a month later (B’s fault). I finally saw the scary-ass blue horse statue that killed its creator–the thing is terrifying. His name is Blucifer, and believe it or not, we will meet him again on this journey. Dropped off B and called out “Goodbye, my love!” as I watched him walking through the sliding doors.goodbyemylove

img_7196I abandoned the highway in my search for a coffee shop, passing the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which appears to be a soccer stadium. Next, I went to Argonaut Liquors and found a twelve-pack of Odell Easy Street wheat for a friend in Texas. Odell is in Fort Collins, which is pretty close to Greeley, but we never made it up that way.

Whenever I travel, my modus operandi is to find the local indie bookstore and go from there. I knew, as I navigated through downtown, that Denver had a beloved used bookstore, but I couldn’t remember the name. I made a halfhearted attempt to find the store on Facebook (convinced that I had somehow liked the page without ever having visited, as is my wont), but this trip really wasn’t about Denver, so I took off down the road. I later learned it was Tattered Cover, and there was one located on the same avenue as the liquor store. Sorry, Denver.

I then drove to Golden FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GETTING A PICTURE OF THE GIANT YELLOW BELLY. Not sure it was worth it, but it did place me en route to hit a few more places I wanted to visit on the way to my friend K’s house in New Mexico. I looked for a bookstore but ended up on campus, so I gave up and went to Starbucks to regroup.

img_6065.jpgRed Rocks Ampitheatre was next. Footage of Sarah McLachlan singing “Building a Mystery” played as I walked through the visitor center. Kings of Leon’s people were setting up on stage for the show that night. I took a photo for a nice couple and got my traditional pressed penny.

Drove through the woods and saw some crazy animals. Took a photo and texted B–“I saw a moose!” B wrote back. It was an elk.

A friend had told me she had fallen in love with the Kittredge/Evergreen area, so I drove through. Stopped at the Kittredge General Store to gas up and got some free KGS stickers for my friend. I also tried to scrape the Colorado sticker off my car–it seemed appropriate to return the Silver Queen to her home state before removing one of her tattoos, but the sticker only crumbled around the edges.

Evergreen was overwhelming for the underprepared, but there appeared to be a lake. Unimpressive coffee. The fog and snow had really kicked in by the time I stopped in Conifer to purchase a book from a local indie bookstore. The owner said he was selling out. Then it was The Shining on Audible and a shit ton of mountain passes all the way to New Mexico. Every time I thought I was done, there were more mountains. I feathered the throttle and switched to music once it got dark and scary. K called as I drove through Pagosa Springs and told me to watch out for elk.

(There are more of the through-the-windshield-whilst-driving shots than I care to admit.)

I thought I would get some food in Durango, but the road took me south instead, so it was cold pizza all the way through. As I parked in Farmington, I texted one of the Colorado friends that I had arrived safely in THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT. I rang the doorbell, peeped through the window, and had to call K from her doorstep, since she was asleep on the couch.

Bonus: Here’s before, during, and after me and my car drove through a tunnel and turned into cartoons! Whew!

(Yeah, I did a lot of driving that day. It does things to your brain.)

Quest in the Southwest: Day Three


Sunday was B’s actual birthday. We slept until ten and went for Mexican breakfast with three of the crew. On our way out of town for the day, we stopped by two more friends’ house to deliver beer and fajita meat and see their–gasp!–basement. (Texans don’t have those.)

img_6007We went west through Loveland, which got progressively hippier as we drove. A head shop had many stoner icons, such as Jay and Silent Bob, painted on the exterior. I also saw an actual totem pole. We backtracked to Devil’s Backbone after we passed it, but we didn’t do any hiking.

img_6013The drive through the Rockies followed the river, which was wide, shallow, and quick-moving. Much faster than us–I frequently pulled over to let other cars pass.

The Stanley Hotel charged ten dollars for parking. There was a café at the lower-level entrance and a tour sales office. All the tours were sold out or had one ticket left. In the ladies’ bathroom, with its black-and-white checkered tiles, I learned that Dumb and Dumber had also been filmed there.

After taking in the view from the main lobby upstairs, I had to check the Whiskey Bar for the moon landing newspaper page, and it was right where it should be.


We landed on the moon!

I bought a red rum shot glass in the gift shop. We went out the main entrance and walked through the rain past the hedge maze.

We went to TripAdvisor’s #1 restaurant in Greeley for dinner. The less said, the better. To be fair, the #1 restaurant in our closest big town is in a hotel, because no one ever leaves the hotel, so maybe we shouldn’t take restaurant recommendations from TripAdvisor. This particular restaurant had stopped carrying any local beers, and the pizza we didn’t eat became road food for my long drive the next day. We closed the place down, then stood in front of a convenient store to wait for our uber, my dark trench coat straight out of Silent Bob’s stylebook.

Quest in the Southwest: Day Two


Wimg_5986oke up around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday to go to the Garden of the Gods. I wanted a good cup of coffee, but as B. observed, hipster coffee joints don’t open early enough. I settled for grog from the gas station next to the motel. We caught the sunrise on the rocks.

Returned to the motel for our complimentary breakfast and learned our room had a perfect view of Pike’s Peak. It was probably the best view we’ve ever had of all the places we’ve ever stayed.


Gas station grog wasn’t doing the trick, so we had to stop at a hipster coffee place on the way through Denver. We passed Mile High Stadium and Turntable Studios. B. found Indian food in Greeley, and we eavesdropped on the faculty of St. Mary’s Catholic School during their lunch. Then we walked over to the Greeley Museum where, in my opinion, they have not adequately capitalized on the Spud Chips brand–not a hokey souvenir to be bought (or an image to be found online, apparently). I settled for a book on Rattlesnake Kate and have frequently shared her story with anyone who asks about my trip to Greeley–140 rattlesnakes!

Back at the hotel, I took a nap while B. went truck shopping with one of the couples we were there to visit. He arrived back at the hotel a few hours later with a different friend couple–the other was still truck shopping. We drove over to Crabtree Brewery, and when we pulled up, I was handed a box. Inside, a half dozen baby-themed gourmet cookies–a pregnancy announcement! The other couple met us at the brewery their new Chevy Colorado Z71. I had thought they were truck shopping for him, but it was for her. They were also pregnant. (The baby was actually born Saturday, January 6! Which shows how long it’s taking me to blog!)

Everyone met at Greeley Chophouse that night for B.’s birthday dinner. He’s still annoyed with me for not getting a photo–we were all dressed nice. There were cheese boards with edible beef-tallow candles, salads in baked-cheese bowls, prosecco, and chamomile saison. B. and I went to order a bottle of Hob Nob Pinot Noir from France, but boss friend pre-empted and ordered us a Domaine Drouhin from Oregon (they had recently visited the region and had the Goonies photo to prove it). As predicted, boss friend tried to pick up the tab, but I had already conspired with the waiter, Matthew, and took care of it.


After dinner we walked to WeldWorks Brewing to drink Juicy Bits IPA and mango sour beer. It was actually my first sour, and it tasted like it should be healthy. Some of our friends are high scorers on the pinball games there…so look out now.

Quest in the Southwest: Day One

Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman, planning our trip for us.

Last weekend was B.’s birthday, so we took a little road trip to see friends in Colorado and New Mexico. I got my toes painted Grand Canyon Sunset, stocked up on Barrow beer and HEB fajita meat, and off we went.

We left at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, September 29, stopping at Flo(rence) Do(nuts) for breakfast. The rain came down hard all the way through Lampasas and on and off for the rest of the day. We stopped to see the Great White Buffalo on the square in Snyder and each got a taco from Laredo Taco Company (located inside Stripes convenience stores, for the uninitiated). The windmills outside Lubbock were buried in fog, and we stopped at a coffee shop called Sugar Browns, where I bought a shirt with a buffalo on it for my high school friend, K. Our mascot had been the buffalo, and she had attended law school in Lubbock, though I don’t think the coffee shop was around at the time. I got a Sugar Brown latte and ordered B. a London Fog, which I ended up drinking.

Due to a hankering for chicken fried steak, we stopped at the Big Texan in Amarillo, which is actually famous for the 72-ounce, finish-in-under-an-hour-and-it’s-free steak, but neither of us were interested. We both agreed the Big Texan is “what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war…” or if Texas ever wins independence. The motel next to the restaurant features a wild west facade, creating a small town with four rooms per establishment. I did not see a house of ill repute, nor a saloon.

After a disagreement over whether the mashed potatoes were powdered or not, we bellied up to the bar to sample the house brews. We learned the Whoop Your Donkey Double IPA mixed with the Texas Red Amber Ale is called a Red Ass. I was quite taken with the Bomb City Bock, but as I was driving, had to limit my intake.

I got my traditional pressed penny, Zoltar told my fortune, and the two of us took on the shooting gallery. While I was waiting outside for my gentleman companion, I saw a man dressed as Mario, but, doubting it was intentional, decided it was very rude of me to take his photo. Still, this shot features the Route 66 sign and gets the point across without embarrassing anyone.img_5960.jpg

Leaving Amarillo, a picturesque hay pasture off the highway caught my eye. The round bales stretched for a mile on either side. I realized there were several vehicles parked along the access road and finally saw the graffitied cars planted diagonally in the ground. It was my first time to see the Cadillac Ranch.


Free image from Pixabay. Honestly, the round bales are what really made the scene.

We were listening to The Shining on Audible in preparation for the Stanley Hotel, and I’d also convinced B. to listen to a few selections from my backlog of podcasts. Still, we were about ten hours into the trip and I’d driven nearly 500 miles, so when I started to drift off, I finally had to ask to tap out. B. took over driving duties in what turned out to be Texline, and I missed driving the entire way through Texas by about a hundred yards. I drifted in and out of sleep through that corner of New Mexico, hazily catching the dragon on this building in Clayton, which is one of the coolest facades I’ve ever seen.


This is not my photo. It is from the Six-M Concrete and Metal Art website. They are the ones who created the dragon and a bunch of other cool stuff. Visit them at

I woke up for real in Raton, when we stopped at a gas station and B. had to go inspect an impressive pair of antlers looming out of a truck bed at the neighboring gas pump. It was an elk.

img_6413We climbed up in elevation and came back down into Colorado. On the descent, B. taught me to use my gears to decelerate, instead of riding the brake all the way down the mountain. Feather the throttle, he said.

Our first stop was in Trinidad, where the couple behind us in line saw B.’s I SURVIVED THAI HOT shirt from the late, great Thai Kitchen and started talking about Killeen, where they had been stationed before moving to Colorado, aka Free America.

We made it to Colorado Springs without incident, and B. surprised me with an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed restaurant for dinner. I felt under-dressed and scrubby as we descended into the Rabbit Hole, but we didn’t have to wait for a table and the waitstaff was hospitable. I had a Tweedle Bee spicy cocktail and B. had a Beehive from Bristol Brewing Company, I think. He did order the rabbit, while I went with rabbit food: carrot-ginger-lavender soup and cauliflower mac-and-cheese with tofu. On the way back to the hotel, our Uber driver broke the tie and convinced me not to attempt to drive the road to the top of Pike’s Peak.