Mecca looks like a balloon festival

Mecca looks like a balloon festival

I’ve written about ballooning and festivals a few times already and if you want to check out my trip to Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta look here or the Arkansas Balloon Festival can be found here. Both include tons of pics of balloons.

I think I can say annual with confidence since this is my third year in a row…my annual trip to Albuquerque. Has a nice ring to it. By the time I left on Tuesday afternoon I was thinking I’d be lucky to make it through Oklahoma before I was ready to stop for the night. It had been a long day at work and then add driving on to that…. Thankfully I had lots of phone calls and long chats with friends and family all the way up to 1am when I finally stopped in Amarillo, TX. 

As you drive into Amarillo heading west bound there is a big sign that says ‘Amarillo’. Once I see the sign it’s like George Strait kicks on in my head. Amarillo by morning up from San Antone… Off to bed with balloons dancing in my head…not really but it sounds good.

I had planned to be up early, so I could finally check out the Cadillac Ranch. No such luck since my alarm didn’t go off for the second day in a row. Wth – It took a phone call to bring this sleeping beauty around to the living. Ugh it was after 8am and later than I wanted to start my day. A frantic beauty prep and I was hitting the road to Albuquerque aka Mecca. 

The landscape of the southwest is somewhat desolate with low growing plants and dark red outcroppings with arroyas here and there. I spotted a train that looked a mile long, passed a million trucks and campers, and cruised down the highway at a brisk 80mph. Before I knew it I was driving through the Sandia-Manzano mountains coming into Albuquerque. It feels like coming home, but I’ve never lived there. Crazy thing about this vacation I get up at 4:45am, so I can meet my pilots by 5:30am to drive to fiesta field. That’s love peeps. 

I would like to say this was vacation only but work creeps in especially when you have a big project on a time constraint. So there were about three hours with my head stuck in a laptop sitting in my hotel room. Then there were the phone calls and requests that relate to the project. It will be worth it in the long run isn’t that what we say to ourselves. 

Each day was beautiful for flying. I was a little rusty since I haven’t crewed in a year, but I’m happy to do the work. My pilot landed on the field every day I was there so I had it pretty easy this year. No tumble weeds, locked gates, soccer fields or the reservation. I might be jinxing myself for next year. Omg

We tailgated a couple of times and watched the balloons come across the field while pilots were trying to hit the target with their baggie. An evening hanging out at a beautiful home with the oldest wisteria I’ve ever seen. Saturday was game day and off to the Uptown bar to watch some SEC action. Like the previous year there were a bunch of Sooner fans there watching their game against Texas. The UT fans were huddled in the corner and left pretty quick at the end.

Ate at some familiar places and got to try some new ones. Jimmy’s Cafe was delicious. Highly recommend eating there. I had the huevos rancheros with christmas. Yum!

Spent time switching out baskets and envelopes. It may all seem kind of mundane and like a lot of work I’m sure to some. I enjoy the experience, the people I’m with, and the ability to just be myself. I took naps! It’s a privilege at my current age to be able to nap. Once I creep up in years it might be the norm. Lol

On one of the nights we went to the balloon glow and fireworks. Hung out on the tailgate and drank bloody Mary’s. It was an interesting evening especially when we saw the senorita balloon break away from its tiedown.

On the last day we flew I got to go as well. It was the highest altitude I’ve been in a balloon so far. We were going up to 7200′ not sure if we got all the way to that or not, but I know we got to 6800′. The fiesta field still looks huge from that height. It’s just so massive. There was so much balloon traffic that day – more than I’ve ever seen on one of my trips. All of us in the basket were keeping an eye out for balloons above, below and to the side. Some are just so huge you don’t want to hit by accident. Talk about a potential catastrophe. We went from that height to down on the deck pretty much, so we could land on the field. My pilot did an excellent job. I’m fortunate to have the experience and grateful I continue to have the opportunity to fly. 

If you’ve never been it should be on your bucket list or must see items. It’s a sight to behold that’s for sure.

Until next year mecca.

-G.

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Off to Colorado I go

Off to Colorado I go

Work travel with a side trip to visit with one of my besties! 

Got to Denver for a meeting and had some time to burn before checking into the hotel so I took off for my favorite restaurant The Berkshire. If you love bacon this is the place for you. When I landed it was spitting snow and raining so I had the grilled cheese with BACON and tomato-parmesan-basil soup. Absolute deliciousness!!!

If you ever have time to tour Celestial Seasonings in Boulder, Colorado I highly recommend it. I had the opportunity to be a taste tester for green teas they are trialing, and I was compensated with a box of Peppermint tea. A great trade off for sure!

Sassy

Once my meeting was over I hit the road to meet up with my friend Cindy and I was finally able to meet her fiance. He’s a sweetie and he’s lucky to get her…just sayin’. (Obviously, I’m writing this after the wedding, so if you are just now reading and missed the trip to Colorado for that event you can catch up here. Rollin’ down the highway Part 1 and Part 2 of the Colorado Trip)

We had a blast with her being my tour guide. I actually started my day birding along the Arkansas River. Cindy knew I would love it and sent me on my merry way with a set of binoculars. I added to my life list, was able to contribute some finds, and in southern tradition I met people that know people from my home town. So much so that our families are buried in the same cemetery. Really folks I just have a knack for finding these encounters. Give me a plane full of people and I bet there’s an Aggie on it. Instant rapport and recognition of shared experiences. That actually happened on my trip to Pittsburgh two weeks ago. The guy sat next to me on the first leg. I never talk but I chatted with him. Alright back to CO.

I’d always wanted to visit the Royal Gorge, which is just outside Canon City. We road the gondola. Cindy rode it but didn’t want to look down. I would’ve hung over the side I was so excited to be hanging in air.

A true test of friendship!

It’s funny how I live in Arkansas and the Arkansas River flows through our great state, but it doesn’t look near this pretty. It’s muddy and nasty by the time it gets to Little Rock. The first time I ever waterskied was on the Arkansas River in southern Arkansas. I was staying with my aunt and unlce during the summer. I remember it being dirty and that I about drowned learning to ski. Experiences that last a lifetime. I’ve spent other days hanging out on the river with my cousin and friends of hers. Despite the brown color of the water we had a good time. Just had to keep sunscreen on her ghostly figure. Think vampire and you’ve got the right color. ❤ her!

The Arkansas River…I want to raft that one day!

Look ma no hands!
Aster’s peaking out
Looking upriver – I want to ride the train too!
Quartz is used everywhere – beautiful
A lovely pine

It was a hot was day in comparison to the spitting snow and rain I had when I landed in Denver a couple of days before. I was melting and grateful for any respite that included shade.

Royal Gorge Bridge

The bridge has lots of movement because of the type of construction and there is a boat load of wind whipping through there. Cindy walked down the center and provided interesting tidbits about the bridge and surrounding area.  In the most recent past there was a fire that burned up the gorge area. Devastating to look at the land and see the carnage fire can bring to nature.

Love this photo because it makes me think of art for some reason! 

This is only a portion of my trip. I’m going to have to break this one down. Next part will be about the mountains and a castle. Really you don’t want to miss it. Oh and a cat named Bandit! A real charmer.

Enjoy-G.

Part 2 of the Colorado Trip

Come Saturday morning we were up and gathering our belongings to hit the road once again. We had a short visit then on the road to Colorado Springs. We decided to go a different route heading home. The drive down from Westcliffe was spectacular! The rock formations and shear cliffs were a reason to stop and capture the beauty around us. Evergreens galore….the scent just makes you think Christmas.

It was just over an hour later and what felt like a steady decent downward that we arrived in Colorado Springs. My sister and I headed straight for the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. PSA: it cost $10/adult to enter. We enjoy checking out archeological sites, especially ones we remember hearing about when we were kids in school. We wandered in and out of the cliff dwellings. Took lots of pictures. I had to shed my light jacket because the temperature difference was a solid 20-30 degrees from Westcliffe to Colorado Springs. I was starting to sweat and I wasn’t doing any hot yoga in those yoga pants.

She’s Cray Cray

❤ my sister!
Pike’s Peak in the distance

We didn’t take time for the Seven Falls but I’ll try to see that another trip. It’s supposed to be amazing. Instead the GPS was kind enough to route us through a heavy construction zones to a side entrance for the Garden of the Gods. We stopped right away to grab some lunch out of the cooler and take some selfies. We got back on the road and wound our way around stopping along the way for more pics of the rock formations. We finally made it to what is the front entrance and followed the signs to the visitors center. 

Camels kissing

At the visitors center on the viewing deck on the second floor is the best view of the Garden of the Gods. You get a greater perspective and it helps having the information pointers handy. We browsed the gift shop and then hit the road. We didn’t get far when we saw a gas station with a car wash. Time well spent cleaning the dust of my ride!

Our trip back was mostly uneventful considering we traveled the entire state of Kansas. We saw lots of crop land, turbines and the wind blows constantly. Cruise was set and we rolled on towards home. Once we got to Missouri and in the wee hours we stopped for coffee aka espresso. Cause we were making it to the house come hell or high water! At 2:45am we rolled into the drive. We were dead tired but we had covered five states, attended a wedding, saw the sights, made new friends, and had a grand adventure together.

What’s your next adventure? 

Enjoy-G.

Rollin’ down the highway Part 1

Rollin’ down the highway Part 1

Originally my plan was to fly to Colorado and rent a car to make the drive to Westcliffe for my friends wedding. I bought a car and had the epiphany that it might take longer to drive but cheaper in the long run. I needed a trusty sidekick for this trip. A co-captain that wouldn’t sleep the whole way, so I enlisted my sister. She’s a photographer. An easy mark, I mean potential sidekick, to entice with visions of grand vistas and mountains galore. She said yes!

We loaded up on a sunny Wednesday afternoon and hit the road to Woodward, OK. I had been trying to set up my hotel through the app on my phone with no luck. Finally I breakdown and call. The chick that answered was super polite and when she confirmed the address it was with extra emphasis on Woodward Okla-homa. I got the impression she wasn’t sure I had called the right place. This amused my sister and I to no end. I told her ‘Yep, that’s my stopping spot for the night before heading on to Colorado. So we’ll see you later tonight.’ 

After several hours of driving I noticed that I had 3 confirmations for a room. Hmmm that was going to be interesting when I arrived and it was. The girl at registration was proud to tell me that she had put all the rooms together on one floor. I had to explain I only needed one of those and the app issues. She looked so disappointed.

Driving to Woodward was uneventful which I delight in that fact. We saw an amazing sunset over a lake, but I had no place to stop for my sister to take pics. A little further down the road we had crested a ridge and the purples and pinks in the sky were fantastic. It looked like I was pitting at a NASCAR race for the perfect spot for her to get some amazing shots. What can I say I was booking it down the road.

Somewhere in Oklahoma
Westbound and down

Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere I narrowly missed a huge buck and what looked like a black bucket in the middle of the road. Possibly a wild hog but we’ll go with bucket. 

I know my Chrysler 300 won’t straddle that bucket like my Nitro. Back in March of this year my son and I ran up on a gray tote at night in the middle of the road. Oncoming traffic and a car in the lane next to us. I slowed but not much else I could do. I pulled over so we could investigate and the darn thing was hung under the vehicle. He pulled and I backed up until it finally popped loose. Thank goodness it was empty – strap that crap down people!

Back to Oklahoma – we made it to the hotel and I crashed in 5 minutes tops! Long day but I loved seeing new places and driving is something I enjoy. We still had at least 7 hours of driving the next day so you would think we would be up at the crack of dawn. Nope! We were all leisurely about it and thank goodness. Just about the time we were loading up to leave I had an email from my new boss. Um I needed to respond to that and then decided I’d just go ahead and jump on the conference call we were discussing. 10:30ish that’s what time we left. As we tooled through the panhandle of Oklahoma my sister got the task of being my admin. She took dictation for emails, kept an eye on our route, looked for anything interesting to take a picture of…I found that bit of interest. Hooker, OK (see below). The jokes in my head are endless and I’m told the mascot is a Horny Toad. I’m not checking that bit cause I really want it to be true!

Makes me laugh every time!

Once we got past Boise City, OK the road got smaller. Two lanes with no shoulder. Not pulling over in the car but we had a huge discussion about native grasses, crops, cattle and crop rotation. That’s what you get with a farmer and a horticulturalist. When we crossed into New Mexico it was with little fanfare other than the huge pumpkin patch that was being harvested that we whipped past on our way to I-25.

I love karma sometimes. We had a red Grand Cherokee pass us like we were sitting still. I’m no slack behind the wheel and I was estimating that he had to be doing close to 90mph. I really didn’t want a ticket in my new car plus I just paid for the tax, title and license, so I couldn’t afford a hefty fine. Miles down the road I see blue lights flashing and I said to my sister ‘bet that’s the Jeep.’ My sister and I laughed as we passed that Grand Cherokee that thought 90mph was justifiable. That policeman didn’t think so.

Somewhere between Raton and the Colorado State line the sky was just beautiful. You could see the rain coming down in the distance. I told my sister get your camera I’m pulling over. She was like What – ok! I didn’t have to force her at all. I sat in the car since I was sitting just off the interstate. She tells me to get out here so I can take your picture. Um, what. I hate being the model. Lol she did a great job for a stop that was on the fly. We had lots of stops like that – no sense in wasting good scenery!

Before we hit the rain in New Mexico
Made it to Colorado

The best part of the trip was the exit off I-25. It looked to be in the middle of nowhere. I pull up to the stop sign and I see a car sitting off to the right parked next to a fence. No right and straight puts you back on the interstate. I’m looking at Google maps like what left turn I don’t see anything except the drainage space under the road. Looking down at the map I creep forward and the arrow moves along the line on the map. Hmmm that’s so strange. It points right at the drainage space under the interstate. It’s literally one lane! My sister and I look at each other like you’ve got to be kidding. We took pictures of course.

The car fit!

One thing I noticed about Colorado was all the signs for animals. On the way to Westcliffe we saw deer, elk, bear, and buffalo. Once we got to The Historic Pines Ranch we were given warnings about badgers also called bashers by someone’s phone. My phone changed badger to grudge…wth. Autocorrect needs to get with the program. 

The ranch is beautiful! We were just under 9000′ elevation. Our normal is just over a 1000. We did a little huffin and puffin but it was worth it. The aspen weren’t turning yet but they were still beautiful with their stark, white bark with accents of black. I think it’s got to be my favorite tree just for the bark alone. I know plant nerd outta control here. The bonfire reception with chilli and Fritos was delicious. The wedding the following day everything my friend had imagined and more I’m sure. She was a beautiful bride and the groom was handsome as can be. Their joy rolled off them in their body language, facial expressions and actions. Makes the heart go pitter patter to see a couple like that or in my case brings some tears to my eyes. Can’t help it I’m a big ol’ crybaby. Hallmark commercials slay me!

Just outside of Westcliffe
Beautiful church in Westcliffe
Rehearsal – fun times
Aspen trees!!!

More aspens – love them
Ready for the wedding! ❤ my sister!
The happy couple!

Since this was a 5 state trip full of stops, pictures and adventure I’ve broken this blog into two parts. I hope you’ve enjoyed the fun of our sister trip so far.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Enjoy-G.

Vegas baby!

Vegas baby!

I’m fortunate enough to go once a year for work and sometimes I actually do fun things! 

This year my annual trip started off with a chase across the Nellis dunes at night in a dune buggy. In my mind I was picturing sand dunes everywhere, and there were some…somewhere. There was also hard pack and a lot of rocks in all shapes and sizes. It was the best night and I had an absolute blast! Four hours of thrills and maybe chills if you fly over a dune and drop off unexpectedly. 

We came over one dune and I had the gas pedal on the floor. As I flew over I could see the campfire in the valley I was heading straight for. My buggy liked to shimmy to the left and of course the campfire was on the left. I fought the wheel till it shimmied right and then my lights landed on a big freaking rock. Shimmy back left miss the rock and make the turn to go up the next dune. I don’t think I ever let off the gas. 

Towards the end of the chase some of my peeps were really jockeying for their spot in the finish. You would’ve thought it was a NASCAR finish the way we rolled in. Well someone in out group rolled in with a flat tire and I’m pretty sure that’s the same one that knocked a huge ass rock out in front of me. It was a little tricky there for a second. I highly recommend Sunbuggy for an off-road adventure! 

Sorry no pics because I didn’t want to lose my phone in the desert and it would’ve happened considering how rough it was and how fast I was driving. I will say the view of the city was spectacular and I wished for my phone many times to take a pic. I did get a great exfoliation of my face. I had lovely, rosy cheeks for the next few days, so wear something that you don’t mind getting dirty or dusty.

If you don’t feel like an off-road adventure but still want a view of the city check out the Voodoo Lounge on top of the Rio. Beautiful views all around. Be prepared for a cover charge. We had dinner at the seafood buffet in the same hotel. A bit overwhelming there’s so much to choose from but it was delicious. 

The making of Witches Brew

We ventured out to a couple of my foodie faves. Hash House a Go Go….be amazed at the portion size and the food is delicious. Everything I’ve tried so far is great. I’ve hit up 3 locations. Two in Vegas and one in Orlando…all good. Cabo Wabo for scrumptious Mexican food. I could eat there everyday and if I had that same waiter that would be even better! I was waiting on my gal pals happily!😉 

Chicken and waffles (bacon in the waffles) – my fave
Meatloaf and the pic doesn’t do justice to the size of it!!
Fried green tomatoes & chicken salad…yum!
A huge bloody mary!

One of the nights we drove the strip. This is my 4th or 5th trip and the first time I’ve done that and it was so much fun. There is so much to see and people to watch!

If you have a car and get time, go out to Red Rock Canyon. I try to carve out time to go each time I’m in Vegas. It’s beautiful and the colors of the rock are so striking as you drive towards them. This year I actually had a co-worker go with me so that was a nice change. She had never been, so I got to show her all the cool stuff I’d seen so far. One day I hope to have time to actually hike but that will have to be on a personal trip. Not enough time for that when I’m out there to work. On the way back we ran through a smoothie drive thru. Nothing like that back home so it was a fun treat.

Crazy hair day lol

Primrose
Can you see the hands?

Another night we wanted to hit up the Blue Martini bar but discovered there’s a dress code. Flip flops and shorts aren’t part of it. Dress up if you go!

For anyone preparing for a zombie apocalypse or prepping for doomsday I’ve found the place for you to shop. It’s on the strip right under the big Swarovski crystal sphere. 

Always a great trip to support a group of folks that have a lot of talent within our company. It’s also fun to see a different part of the country and to have time to get out and really see the sights. Vegas definitely has it going on! 

If you were expecting ‘Hangover’ type confessions you are out of luck!😂✌

-G.

Let’s go for a ride

Let’s go for a ride

Last week, I was in Florida working and extended my trip through the weekend to spend time with my friends. Taking a mini-vacation! Like super mini. We had things planned out pretty much, but a ride on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle to the beach totally turned my head. 

It has been so long since I’ve ridden I can’t even recall the year. I just know it was with my dad. When I was a little bitty thing my parents put me on a bike in a diaper and a dew rag…favorite picture ever! The picture is gone thanks to a house fire when I was 15, but the memory lives on. That last time riding with my dad I remember I was finally tall enough and strong enough to hold his bike up. Well I still had to lean heavily to one side. Those short legs of mine and that Yamaha didn’t go together. He had more than one so he took one sister and I took the other! I was excited because I’d finally earned the right to ride by myself on one of his bikes. Dad would normally take two of us or one at a time. Off we went for a ride down the back roads enjoying our time together. As a kid of divorced parents sometimes it was tough, so I loved those times with him. I miss the opportunity to spend time with him but cancer is a real bastard. 

I didn’t realize until we were tooling down the road how much I would be reminded of those times and would miss him in that moment. It about brought tears to my eyes and I didn’t want to ruin a happy time with sadness. I sucked it up and knew that it was going to be another awesome experience to go along with the times I spent riding with my dad. There was a huge grin that could NOT be wiped off my face…my joy was apparent cause my dimples were showing! 

I’m on the controlling side so it says a lot when I have trust in the driver because I never worried or got anxious. There are people I’ve ridden with that I never wanted to get behind again, or I wanted to take over! He wasn’t one of those – because I got on that bike any time there was an opportunity. Cold as hell that last time out but totally worth it. Too bad for him I spent most of my time sight seeing, so I didn’t say a whole lot. I know my head was on a swivel. I had never been to the Tampa area and I was taking it all in. Lots of farm country – more than I expected. Well I did give notice to be prepared for my cold hands cause I tucked them anywhere I could. Lol No shame my fingers were freezing!

The tiki bar was fun and the music was interesting. Karaoke would’ve been way more entertaining. The views of Tampa Bay were exceptional. There was a cruise ship coming out of Port so the sun was an amazing backdrop. Food was good…my shrimp tacos were delicious. On another day we saw the manatees. I had never seen them in person or mangroves so that was fun. Check out the video of the manatees swimming around by the coal plant. They like the warm water this time of year…it’s about 20 degrees warmer. 

The horticulturalist in me was excited to see and touch the mangroves. I did not remove any since that’s against the law fyi. I’m a bird watching enthusiast – my nerdiness knows no bounds. Really. Did a little bird watching, saw a sea turtle and some huge redfish. Ummm just hand me a rod and reel cause redfish are good eating! I’ll just need someone to bait it and remove the fish. Yes I have high expectations when it comes to fishing, but I will catch a ton if they’re biting! After some wildlife adventures we were off to the Hot Tomato. Holy cow the BLT has 10 pieces of bacon on it. Excellent little hole in the wall. Highly recommend that place. Sorry I ate the sandwich and never thought about taking a pic. Just trust me on this one.

Cruise ship in the distance

Mangrove roots
Brown Pelican

So the weekend didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was what I needed and didn’t even know it. It was relaxing and I enjoyed the people I was with and the places we went. Obviously I need to do this more often – find that work/life balance. Don’t get me wrong I would’ve had a great time with the original plan this was a fabulous alternative. Go for a ride on a Harley with a fantastic person or just tool down the road on your own!

HAVE FUN! Enjoy life’s little moments!

-G.

Sparks start fires

Sparks start fires

True statement – I don’t think I have the power to tell anyone what to do, but if I can spark a thought, a change in attitude or even make you wonder I’m doing the job I set out to do with this blog. Ok maybe that wasn’t my orginial purpose but I like the idea. 

I know I can’t get everyone on board with Star Wars…Lord love ya! I do want to spread some positivity. Am I positive all the time…ummm no. I have my moments of being in the pit of negativity, but it’s all about how we pull ourselves out and move on. I did say I would try to keep it real. I’ve held to that even when it’s a bit on the personal side, and feels very much like I’m exposing parts of myself I’d rather keep hidden. This is a journey, an experience, a voyage possibly to a new frontier…well maybe not space but in a direction inspiration takes me. 

I’ve been inundated with Star Wars memes this evening and they’ve obviously gone to my head. Along with the Stars Trek movie I watched. As for travel I’m about to hit the road some more. In some cases to places I’ve been and other times it will all be new. With the new year I plan to incorporate both blogs into this one. Just easier to keep up with. Plus I’m sure a little travel, food and adventure will interest a few. 

Adventures come in all shapes and sizes…my roll as a parent and mother gives me plenty, work has its own set, and then there’s my personal decision to make new choices or take the road less traveled because I can. As I start this new year I hope to continue in those choices. I realized as I started writing the travel blog that I had to do more than just travel. I needed a plan or idea of what I would like to see or do in the places I visited or else nothing would be seen or experienced. Yes it’s tiring and requires some serious motivation when you’re working and putting in the hours but it’s worth it. Go with some places or ideas in mind, ask locals for suggestions, be willing to get in the car and drive till you see something interesting or take a walk. 

This year includes some bucket list states for my son and I. A pirate adventure….for real I’m going to Gasparilla. Got a wedding in Colorado in the mountains to attend…omg you know there will be pictures galore. Plus so much more!

So fire up your inspiration and find your inner spark and light it up! Let’s start 2017 off with a flourish and finish with a bang!

Continuing to keep it as real as possible.

-G.