Feckin' Trekkin'

Matt and Krista's Awesome Travel Blog

Month: March 2010 (page 1 of 2)

Alamogordo, New Mexico: Wine, Pistachio Groves, Dunes and Missiles

New Mexico! Woo! The weather we’ve finally been looking for! After taking a drive through the middle of nowhere on Highway 380 we made it to Alamogordo. I am finding that I am learning so much about this country.. I had no idea that Billy the Kid hung out around here (the billboard sign said so!). We saddled up to Boothill RV park and chilled out for the night. The stars were beautiful and the moon was HUGE! Anyways, we woke up the next morning to hit White Sands National Monument. We broke the bank on this one… 3 dollars each to enter the park and the pass was valid for another 6 days.

After a walk through the museum and an enthusiastic dad telling us to buy his two sleds and tip on buying wax for them we were back in the RV driving down Dunes Drive into the  desert. What can I say about this place? It is UNREAL! We drove about 8 miles into the desert and parked up and found a big dune hill. Walking up them is quite a work out but the ride down is awesome. The wax helped as well! We had a blast going down the dunes and have kept our sleds for home!

Matt went off to take photos of the dunes, plant life (yes there is quite a bit of it there) and animal tracks. So what did I do? I took a beer and put it in my adult (term being used quite loosely here) sippy cup and I chilled out on my sled, having a brew and taking in the scenery.

Recommendation if you ever go? Glasses. Wear sunglasses. I wore my polarized sunglasses and my eyes were still stinging from the sun reflecting off the white sands.

There is loads to do there for 3 bucks a pop. Hikes, nature walks, sunset guided tours. I highly recommend it! In fact, I recommend Alamogordo for a visit as well! We had the pleasure of our own personal tour through a pistachio grove and tasted their pistachio wine as well! Yum. We left with two bags of pistachios and a couple bottles of wine which served us well chilling on top of the RV that night.

Matt and his top tip: If you find any metal in while in the dunes at white sands? Don’t touch it. 🙂 Could be part of a missile. True!

Next mission? Off to Arizona!

Santa Fe to Albuquerque

This afternoon we took a gentle cruise to Alba… Alberq… Albuck…  Albuquerque? It’s only a short drive, but we made the most of it. They say a picture tells a thousand words, so here are 8000 words-worth of stupidity. And bunnies. And Jigsaws. Note: I’m writing this article principally because Krista can’t spell Albuquerque. 🙂

Atalaya Mountain, and why it sucks

Today was a day of mixed emotions on a couple of levels. We got up early to climb Atalaya Mountain which is a nice little 9000 foot peak on the eastern outskirts of Santa Fe.

Mixed emotion number 1. We climbed to 9000 feet on a beautiful spring morning, and were treated to some exquisite views of the city and the surrounding mountains. The trails were great fun, hopping across streams, hiking up switchbacks, tramping through a mixture of soft and packed snow. It was an utterly wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning, and we climbed higher and longer than on our previous hikes this year. And yet, due to the trails being just a little bit too steep and slippery, we (very sensibly) turned back 100 feet from the top of the mountain. That really bugged the crap out of me and I was in a grumpy mood all the way back to the trailhead. It reminded me that I’m definitely a conqueror rather than an explorer.

Mixed emotion number 2. While we were chilling out in the RV at the trailhead having a bite to eat, some guy pulled in right behind us in his Porsche Speedster. I absolutely adore that car. If I was ever going to own a classic sports car, that would be my dream motor. I’d pick it over a Jag XKE or a gullwing Merc 300SL any day of the week. They’re so rare, so it was a privilege to see one in the flesh, outside a motor museum. Unfortunately the guy that owned it was a total douchebag, giving me grief for taking up 3 parking spots when he’d blatantly chosen to block me in when there were 30+ other spaces available.We have a word for people like him where I come from, and that word is “tosser”. Congratulations sir, you are the first American I’ve met so far that’s pissed me off. And the ultimate irony? Captain Douchebag was wearing a Canada jersey.

 

Our First Summit – The Manitou Incline

Last night Matt was talking about some old railway tracks that go high up and people use to train on and how cool it looks and how he wanted to do it. I thought a few things..

  • He was crazy.
  • Go for it, I’ll watch from the bottom
  • WOW, that looks steep.

By the end of his conversation we were both going to climb it (how did that happen?). We haven’t done any proper steep hikes or climbs above 6,000 feet since last August. Worst case scenario? We start, we struggle, we head back down.

We were up, dressed and ready to go by 8:30. At the base of the incline by 9am. To give you an idea, Manitou Springs is at an elevation of 6,400 feet. The base of Manitou Incline is 6,574 feet. You start to climb old railway tracks which is actually kind of cool. You climb 1.02 miles, gain 2011 feet. The average grade of this climb is 41%. The steepest grade is 68%.

Off we went. I pulled the infamous Krista move which is wearing wayyyy too many layers. Matt was super pumped for it. We looked up, wayyyyy up (like you would with the friendly giant) and gave this beast one good look and started. The worst bit is that when you are at the bottom and you look up you see a false summit. Once you reach that bit there is still a bit to go. It was all about patience and pace today. Step, rest. Step, rest. We started off and I was immediately going too fast. We slowed it down, practiced breathing techniques, step techniques. We were doing well. We got to the first real tough bit. I looked at this incline and thought we were nuts for doing this. There were parts that I was using my hands to push myself up. A few times Matt put his hand out to help me out as the steps became sporadic. There were parts of the incline that were snow covered as well. This bit of the climb I stopped, sat down and took a look. It was amazing. Beautiful and it made me dizzy. So I kept focusing on the next step and stopped looking up. Matt was killing the climb but did mention his breathing was out of whack. We slowed right down. Few breaths, then step and so on. We both took turns leading the incline which was awesome. I was surprised with myself as was Matt. He was surprised with my ability and surprised how his legs were struggling.

There was a dude who was in his 60s that ran the thing twice while we were climbing it! He was insane! As well an army troop that was doing their second climb of the day. Let’s not forget the puppies that were climbing with their owners. They kicked ass. Summit was within our reach and we pushed it. The army troop surrounded the last few train tracks waiting for their buddies, which made Matt continue to push a little further away to find a nice quiet place for us to sit. We found a rock sat down and a well deserved high-five was administered. It was beautiful, fulfilling and if I’m honest, a practice run of things to come. 10 minutes at the top, photos, walk around and we headed down a trail that took us through some awesome wilderness. The switchbacks were easier on the legs and knees and the descent was nowhere near as steep as the incline itself.

A good meal, lots of fluids, and a visit to REI (equivalent to MEC) we were back, nested in our RV, happy with the workout! To think this is only the beginning!

Manitou Springs

Today’s blog post is brought to you by Channel 5 Action News reporter, Ollie Williams. Over to you, Ollie.

 

Ollie Williams

 

Oakley Kansas to Colorado Springs a.k.a – ass kicking road day

We figured it was time to pack up and move out and continue heading west, especially since the winds had picked up and the temperature dropped. It had snowed as well while we were sleeping. Just a light dusting.

I don’t think we were on I-70 very long, I’m thinking 10 minutes or so and we saw an exit sign that had Starbucks posted on it. I was out of my seat before Matt parked the RV. Needless to say the two of us were very excited to have some coffee.

After indulging in some coffee and meandering through a big gift shop we got back on the road. Road conditions today were not the greatest. Today we were driving about 330km and gaining over 3,000 feet in elevation. I thought it would be a walk in the park. Matt battled high winds on the I-70. He did a great job. We filled up in a town called Limon and I took over.

We were pretty lucky that our route was taking us down highway 24 as state troopers had closed off a part of the I-70 for reasons unknown. Luck didn’t play any part in this portion of the trip. I had the pleasure of dealing with high winds, narrow roads and some lovely snow drifts left conveniently for me to drive through.

Scenery started to show itself the closer we got to our destination. Long gone are the plains. We now have the pleasure of rolling hills and mountains (although we cant see the top of them as the ceiling is too low). We rocked up to fountain creek RV park around 3pm Mountain time. Yet another time change for us.

Stocked up on groceries and settled in. I have to admit this leg of the trip kicked my ass. Feeling on the gross side I’ve decided to take it a bit easy and Matt jumped on his bike and did some exploring.  He came back with some brochures about the area and great activities to do around here as well. I have a feeling we will come back here at one point.

Not sure if we will stay here tomorrow or get back on the road and head to New Mexico.

For now I believe a good night’s sleep is in order before we decide where the next part of our adventure will lead us.

Highlight of the day: Seeing a billboard picture of Jesus in a wheat field. Still trying to figure out what it meant.

Monument Rocks

We decided to make today a rest day as we’re both pretty tuckered from so much driving. Still, we couldn’t spend the whole day sitting around the campground watching TV and eating crackers. Hence we took a little side trip down the road to a little-known geological feature called Monument Rocks, about half an hour south of I-70. This part of Kansas used to be a sea bed 80 million years ago, but has since been pushed up above sea level and been carved out by the Smoky Hill River. As is often the case, the main attraction was somewhat eclipsed by the Pronghorns that we saw roaming across the prairies. The rocks were pretty cool though, and made a fantastic change from the miles and miles of flat fields that we’ve seen for the last two days. The drive there over “unpaved roads” in a 5 ton RV made for a pretty good adventure too. 😉

Kansas City to Oakley

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. Uhh wait a minute? .. We still are… Ah sh*t.

“Jesus I trust in you!”
“Adoption not abortion.”
“Smile. Your parents had you. Do the same to your unborn child.”
“3 foot donkey! Exit 70.”
“Next rest area 37 miles.”

That is just a sample of the billboards we saw on the I-70 on our way to Oakley today.

We woke up in a lovely Wal Mart parking lot in Bonner Springs and hit the road around 8:30am. It was a bit chilly which was a little surprising. Kansas City had a dump of snow a few days before and the weather was reminding us that we were not in the South quite yet.

So, ya, emm, .. Interstate 70 is, well, straight. Really straight. Lots of farm land. A lot of it. Cows, abandoned cars, scary looking boarded up farm houses, Crazy anti abortion billboards and a few bends in the road. We went through a section of Kansas called Smokey Hills that was quite pretty. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery was pretty beautiful in a “miles and miles of bugger-all” kind of way (Matt quote).

We listened to some great tunes along the way and I had the pleasure of listening to Matt play Interstate Bingo. I still believe the horse one that he got was questionable. The second horse he saw he photographed for proof. Heh.

After a few stops, a gas up and beer which the wonderful robust Clifford asked Matt for I.D and slowly pronounced “Ca naaaay diannnnn” we made it to Oakley. The RV park is great. Wifi, hot tubs, mini golf and a steak house? Win!

After a nice dinner and a lovely sun set over the plains we have settled in with a beer, Family Guy and prairie dogs.

We took a look at the map and saw how much we have driven over the past 5 days. As exciting as it has been so far, we are spent. We may take a day off to recharge. We will figure that out tomorrow after a round of mini golf.

Effingham to Kansas City

We wanted to cover quite a bit of ground today (mostly cos the weather’s crappy and the landscape is dull) so we split the driving. I did the first stretch this morning which was more nondescript agricultural country. I guess they have to produce a lot of buns and tomatoes for all the burgers they eat in the USA, and this seems to be where some of them come from.

Krista did the middle stint so had the privilege of crossing over the Mississippi River and taking us from Illinois into Missouri. The only major city on the route today is St Louis. We didn’t really go into the city but the vibe we got from the highway was that it’s a smart and modern city, but it’s somewhat dominated by motels, car dealers and truck stops. I guess being on one of the main east-west routes has its effect. There’s also a clear Christian influence with churches every few miles, pro-Jesus slogans all over the place, and even a 60-foot high illuminated cross at the roadside.

We’ve been relying on the iPod for tunes for the last few days so we decided to switch to the radio today. Soft rock is the order of the day in the mid west, and I’m suddenly a lot clearer on how Nickelback have managed to sell so many albums over the past few years. On the plus side, Coldplay don’t seem to have had too much of an impact.

We set a course for Kansas City when we got on the road today, not really sure if we’d actually get that far. We realised just how far it was when we got through St Louis and Dave (who’s increasingly becoming the 3rd member of the team) said “Drive for 345 kilometers…”. Yeah, no intersections, no anything, for the larger part of 4 hours. Ugh…

One parting thought as I sit here typing in the back of the van; which idiot put a state line right through the middle of a city? Half of Kansas City isn’t even in Kansas. America never ceases to amaze.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

We went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. It was smack-bang on our route, so it wasn’t too hard to persuade Krista to call in. I’m not really into oval racing but it’s still the home of motorsport in North America, and I got a bit giddy and school-boyish. We did the VIP tour where they take you round the track in a bus, let you touch/kiss/sit on the remaining yard of bricks at the start/finish straight, have your photo taken on the winners podium, give you a tour of the media and VIP facilities, the whole shebang. Obviously I’m the motor racing nut but Krista really enjoyed it too, and was gob-smacked by how much bigger everything is compared to how it looks on TV. The lap is 2.5 miles long, and yet the top Indy race cars do it in under 38 seconds. Can you believe that? They have a museum there too, and they had some early Cooper and Lotus single seat racing cars. It was nice to see some British cars in amidst all the US built cars. We also got to sit in a kind of replica Indycar. They’d taken all the exciting techy bits out but you still got a pretty good feeling for the layout and overall feel of the car. We’re now at a rural lakeside campground somewhere between Indianapolis and St Louis. We’ve been “dry camping” up to now (ie no mains water or electric) so it’s quite luxurious really. No need to ration our water usage, or run the generator if we want to watch TV. We have wireless internet, and they even have cable TV, not that we’ve actually bothered to hook it up.

Illinois is the 6th province/state we’ve visited, having already passed through Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Illinois is pleasant enough, but pretty flat and unspectacular. Imagine Norfolk, but 5 times the size and with slightly better roads. And come to think of it, the people in Illinois speak better English than the folks in East Anglia. So far we’ve covered exactly 1,500 miles (incl our Ottawa trip last weekend) and we’re less than a quarter of the way across the country. It’s getting steadily warmer though. We’re heading roughly towards Arizona so we’ll be in shorts and T-shirt in a week’s time.

Not sure where we’re heading next. Probably St Louis, but after that I really don’t know.

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