Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Pagosa Springs, Colorado – February 17-21, 2023


It started out with me only getting two hours of sleep before heading out to the airport. I should have slept only one hour. I missed my 5:18 AM flight, which got in at 10:30 AM with only one connection. Instead I took three flights, and got in at 10:45 PM. I did manage to see some fun fiber art in the Philadelphia airport. No dinner out with Jim, but we ate together at the house he’s renting in Albuquerque, where he’ll be until September, working on Duster. See IMDB for details, but it’s about a getaway driver who uses a Plymouth Duster as the getaway car. (Note that Jim is not listed as part of the crew because they still have the information for a pilot which they shot but are not going to use.)

The next day, Saturday, we went to check out the petroglyphs from what used to be known as the Anastasi. Apparently that word means ‘ancestors of our enemies’, so the correct name of those peoples is Ancestral Puebloans. There are three locations in Albuquerque that contain petroglyphs, as was explained to us by a wonderful woman, who clearly was originally from New York – that was not a New Mexico accent. She described one of the locations as The Hotel California because so many people go to that location and can’t find their way out. She was a hoot. Another location required some fairly serious climbing over boulders. We chose the third location, Rinconada Canyon, which was a soft sand path of about two miles each way. I was following Jim and cursing myself for having let myself get so out of shape that I was really out of breath and struggling to keep up – and it was basically flat. I felt like a 90-year-old. I continued to beat myself up about how lame I was until we were almost done with the walk when Jim alluded to the altitude. Doh! I was actually pretty relieved that I wasn’t as much of a crock as I was feeling that I was.

Data from the app My Altitude, to which I became a bit addicted on this trip. This is a screenshot from Albuquerque. Note that water boils at a different temperature at different altitudes. Who knew??

So the altitude or elevation in Northampton is 190 feet. So, yeah, not acclimated to 5,000 feet. Don’t let anyone tell you that going from 190 feet of elevation to 5,000 feet doesn’t affect you. Such a strange feeling. Doing something that is normally simple, like opening a bag of crackers that is not as easy to open as it should be, but really isn’t a Herculean task, becomes, well, a Herculean task. And my legs were really sore from hoofing 5000+ steps in the airport from the day before. There just isn’t the oxygen to get them fixed up even after such a small effort. Slight nausea, shadow of a headache, coming and going and reminding me to do some deep breathing, which helped a bit. The next day we had cannisters of oxygen called Boost, and taking a few hits of that helped for a hour or so, not completely, but enough to make walking up a slight incline be less like climbing Everest.

The petroglyph site was DIY in terms of finding the things. Some were really faint, some quite obvious. And there were quite a few aliens depicted. I’m already perplexed that the aliens would find it amusing to help build the pyramids, make some crazy patterns in the corn fields, and feel compelled to help the Druids create a circle of rocks. But they also went to New Mexico and hung out with the Ancestral Puebloans??? Well, if that’s not the case, what the hell are these?

There were many more earthly petroglyphs as well.

Note the ancient emoticon next to the things that look like chess pieces (Spanish crosses). There were a bunch of these but I seem to have captured only one.

That afternoon we drove up to Santa Fe and wandered a bit around the old town and then went to Meow Wolf, which I will describe later. Jim bought tickets and then discovered we really didn’t have time to go through it because we had a dinner reservation about 45 minutes north of Santa Fe. What was most memorable about that part of the day was climbing a small incline, K2, from where we parked to Meow Wolf, only to have the effort wasted. (Santa Fe is at 6,000 feet.)

Our dinner was at NOSA, presumably named for North of Santa Fe. We didn’t take pictures of the place or the food. That felt a bit pretentious and we were just enjoying our dinner rather than preserving it for posterity. You can see pictures of the restaurant at their website. We were seated near a fireplace, using real wood, not gas, which was lovely. There were only six or seven tables in the room, five of which were in use, 12 diners in all. There is only one seating since it is a five-course dinner. We opted for the wine parings, half a glass of wine with each course. This was really the best part of the meal. The wines were really interesting, all very good and all different from the usual we drink at home. The one with the ridiculous name (Don’t Forget to Soar) was one that I really would like to find, but all were wonderful.

The food was very good and somewhat inventive other than the dessert, which was basically a lava cake with whipped cream. I know it says dulce de leche, but it tasted and had the consistency of whipped cream. We didn’t remember to specify gluten-free when we booked, so we couldn’t eat much of the dessert, but we were accommodated on that front in every other course. It’s nice to eat somewhere where they don’t treat you like a freak if you request gluten-free.

The duck was cooked to perfection and served deboned with a lovely sauce. I’d never eaten persimmons before, and they are lovely. The beets were amusing because they were very small and in graduated sizes. Were they able to pick them out at a farmer’s market or did they shave them?

The next day we went to Meow Wolf in the morning. What is Meow Wolf? It’s hard to describe. Check out @meowwolfsantafe on Instagram for the best set of pictures to evoke what it is. Here’s their description:

Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return is a mind-bending, explorable art experience for people of all ages in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Suffice it to say that our minds were not bent except by one out of the 70 rooms. One wanders through rooms, some like rooms in a somewhat creepy house, where you can go through the fridge, for example, to another room. Others are just painted weirdly or have huge plastic constructions. There were teenagers looking in a mailbox or a teapot or any other type of containers, presumably for clues to some mystery hunt, but Jim and I just walked around underwhelmed. Until we came to the room where everything was covered in everyday stuff, much of it obsolete, like floppy disks. Zoom in on the circle at the top of the picture of Jim and me and you’ll see vampire teeth around the outside with bread bag clasps inside them. Who knew prescription bottle tops, used toothbrushes, and even empty birth-control packets could be so beautiful.

This room felt like an artist had created it. Other than this, the rest of the place seemed like a warped, dingy Disney, with no feeling of a person behind the creations. A fun house, not an art house. But people are lined up for every timed entry. You gotta give it to them for raking money in with it. We both tried to not think about the fact that we could have gone to the Museum of International Folk Art instead.

After that odd and disappointing experience, we drove up to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to go to the mineral springs. It is a 3-hour drive from Santa Fe. Albuquerque is lots of beige sand with little round bushes scattered about and snow-capped mountains around it. When there aren’t any man-made structures, it is quite beautiful, but most of it is just bleak. Santa Fe is pretty much the same. But the drive up to Colorado was truly amazing. I have never been out West except to LA and San Francisco and a brief time in Phoenix for a conference. What I remember about Phoenix was the green-grass-with-hundreds-of-sprinklers resort where the conference was held and acres and acres of gray sand with an occasional cactus.

A good bit of the drive to Colorado was through the most amazing rock formations. I kept thinking of the Egyptian statues of Ramses and Gaudi’s cathedral. They were immense. The photographs cannot capture their grandeur. We passed Ghost Ranch, a place Georgia O’Keefe’s stayed/visited?/definitely painted, on the way. I had always imagined her desert time as being in acres of beige sand with a scattering of cacti. I totally get why she chose to paint in that place.

Colorado was covered in at least a foot of snow, very green and beautiful. We got to the Springs Resort at about 3:45, with check-in being 4:00. I was hoping we could check in a bit early but instead we were told they were short-staffed so our room wasn’t ready. I was fuming. We had massages scheduled for 5:30 and I envisioned us taking a dip in the baths and then showering before our massages. We didn’t get into the room until 4:45, so no baths that day. (We could have gone after dinner, but we were too full and tired.) Jim successfully headed me off from using my full-on bitch voice at the front desk, but I was still fuming when we got to the massages.

But I got the most incredible experience. It wasn’t just a massage, at least the masseuse, Kristine, used a bunch of techniques. It was therapeutic as well as bliss-inducing. She figured out the places on my right leg that have been somewhat tweaky since the half marathon I did in April. And that my jaw wasn’t right. (I fell and really jammed it to one side three years ago and it’s not been right since.) She put on gloves and manipulated my jaw from the inside. It was sore afterwards, but my teeth were aligned for the first time in years. She was a true magician. When I asked her to move to Northampton she said she’s asked to move to people’s towns frequently. Jim got a nice massage, but unfortunately for him, not from a magician.

We had dinner in Pagosa Springs, not at the Resort, in town at the Alley House Grille. Jim was brave enough to order the elk tenderloin. I was worried that it would be gamey. It wasn’t. It was fantastic. I had lamb shank, which was very good. If I see elk on the menu again in my life, I will order it.

The next morning Jim went to the front desk and got us an extra hour before we had to checkout. because we had to wait to check in. (I think he was still worried that I’d inflict my bitch voice on the staff.) The normal check-out time is 10:00, which is really early if you want to get in the baths before checking out. So we had until 11:00. In the end I was glad to have had the hour the next day instead of pre-massage and Jim was spared my bitch voice.

There are 25 pools all sourced from the mother spring. The mother spring is way too hot to get in, but feeds all the pools at the resort. It is right outside the main resort building. You can see that Pagosa Springs is over 7,000 feet high. We were both sucking on Boost oxygen canisters before and after our baths.

We started out in a 100 degree pool, which was the most beautiful since there was a wall of stalactites created by the minerals, and the steam rising off it was absolutely magnificent. Then we moved to a pool that was 102 degrees and after a while to one that was 101. Yes, a degree or two does make a difference. The pool that is 106 degrees is called the Lobster Pot. We didn’t try that one.

The pools are along the San Juan river, and across the river is the main street of town, where there are other resorts and lots of restaurants. There were ducks in the river, which let us know that, even though the hot water was flowing into the river, it must not have raised the temperature too high.

It was absolutely delicious soaking in the pools. There were other people in the pools, but only one had a group that was taking up the entire pool. Most had one other couple in it, so it didn’t feel crowded at all. It was a little hard to leave, but we were fully soaked at the end of a little over an hour.

We had breakfast at the Rose, huevos rancheros for both of us, and I bought myself a souvenir from Goodman’s Department Store, over 100 years old. I couldn’t resist the donkey.

Then we headed back on the four-hour drive back to Albuquerque. Jim made us a nice dinner and we had an early night so Jim could go to work at an ungodly hour. He took me to the airport for my basically all-day trip home.

Women’ s March


imageI started out making “pussy hats” (see on January 7, hoping to make at least four hats.  I got through three before the march, one for me, one for Isabel, and one for my friend Carol.  When we were on our drive down Friday night, we stopped at a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike.  There was a longer line for the bathroom than I’ve ever seen on that road.  And it was my first hint that pussy hats would be let’s just say prevalent at the march and gave us an idea of just how many people might be there.  When one woman came out of the bathroom she asked, “Is everyone going to the march?”  And a huge cheer from everyone broke out.

We stayed in Chestertown, MD, where my mom lives in assisted living, so lodging was not too pricey.  We had planned to go to the outermost train station to head into DC, but a friend of my daughter’s was at that station and let us know that there was a 2-3 hour wait to get a Metro Card and get on a train.  So we stopped and Googled and found a station a bit further toward the city that was not crowded at all.

When we got on the train, it was a sea of pink hats and completely packed, and a big cheer broke out as we got on and every time the doors opened at each station to let more people on.  Everyone was incredibly friendly and upbeat and energized.

We were told that the L’Enfant station, the one closest to the march start, was closed, and at the time I wasn’t sure why they would close the station.  When we got off a station or two before L’Enfant, I realized why they would close a station.  We were only just able to get onto the platform.  It was completely jammed with people.  We walked in a line all the way to the end of the platform and then turned around and went all the way back to get to the escalator.  There were police and National Guardsmen at the bottom and top of the escalator, extremely friendly, helping the flow of people to go through smoothly.

We walked to the Mall and ended up standing around 7th and Independence, getting there at around 12:30, very happy that we actually made it.  There was video a ways away and audio very near us.  But the speakers were surrounded by some awful anti-abortion and anti-every non-white and non-heterosexual group, with shockingly hateful signs.  They had a megaphone and I think they were somehow disconnecting the audio for some of the time.  And when they were talking through the megaphone, people surrounding them would drown them out yelling, ”


Madrid – Day 2

Madrid, Travel

We started out on our first full day in Madrid having the traditional Catalonian bread with tomatoes.  I had to look up how to make it since it is so delicious.  It seems that it is quick and easy, basically tomatoes and olive oil.  I found this recipe.  Which leads me to extol the wonders of the almost lime-green olive oil that so many things were swimming in.  No, that is not a bad thing at all.  It adds such richness and luxuriousness.   It was heaven. I thought I should bring some home for Jim and so looked up Spanish olive oil on the net and found that the top prize-winning olive oil in the world for the past few years is a Spanish olive oil, Venta del Baron.  When I was looking for it, I saw that it is available on Amazon, so I saved myself the weight and worry of carrying it home and bought a bottle when I got back.  It is delicious.

The place where we had breakfast is called The Vertical Cafe because it is on the CaixaForum Plaza, where there is a vertical garden on the side of a building.  I could lean back on my window-seat bench and look out at the vertical garden as I ate.  You can see the little pockets built onto the wall to hold the plants in the photos below.

The weather was reported to be cooler later in the week (even though it wasn’t – it stayed in the 70s the whole time we were there), so we thought we should take advantage of the sun and warmth and go to the Retiro, a large park just a block away from our hotel.  We had a lovely ramble around it, visiting a pond with lots of turtles climbing all over each other for a place on the bank, and the Crystal Palace (which had an audio art installation), and the renowned statue of Satan.

We were very hungry after our visit to the park, but didn’t have our bearings yet, so we ended up heading down Atocha, which turned out to be the one street in Madrid without good restaurants.  We had an OK meal in a restaurant with lots of photos of bullfighters on the walls.  Isabel had some fairly exotic mushrooms with shrimp in a pool of olive oil, which was quite good.  I had mushrooms with ham, which was really ordinary, but at least I wasn’t starving any more.

We passed a monument with a bunch of wreaths, which I looked up later and found that it commemorates the killings of five and wounding of four lawyers by fascists looking for a communist leader and, not finding him, just killed the lawyers they came across.  It is shocking to think that this happened just 30 years ago.

Isabel’s eagle eye managed to find us some gluten-free churros, which were not bad.


We wandered up to the Plaza del Sol where we did a bit of shopping and then walked back to the hotel.  The bear with the “strawberry tree” is the symbol of Madrid.


Madrid – Day 1

Madrid, Travel

Isabel and I went to Madrid on March 9, a Christmas present from her to me because she knew I had wanted to take a vacation and my plan didn’t work out so I wasn’t planning any vacation for myself for the foreseeable future and was quite disappointed about it.  Her gift was an astonishingly generous, thoughtful, and lovely present.  She picked flights without crazy layovers, which, I know, takes a lot of effort and time, and a hotel that was just perfect.

I met her at the airport for our overnight flight and, seeing that there was a Legal Seafoods there, we just had to get a table to have the  gluten-free fried clams.   At least this time we didn’t supplement them with fries and Legal’s really good, warm gluten-free rolls for an all-white dinner as we have on prior trips!  A fitting, very American, pre-Europe dinner!  We didn’t get a lot of sleep on the plane, it was only a 5 hour flight, and I was quite uncomfortable for some reason, but got some sleep.  I’d been going to bed and getting up early, so I’d pre-adjusted my clock a bit.  Isabel told me the steward had a hard time believing her when she told him I didn’t want to be woken up to choose between “pasta or meat” for the meal.  I don’t know, with such a description I would have thought she’d think I’d be tempted!  We had a short layover in Lisbon, with a huge, huge line for immigration, but no customs. No customs in Madrid either. Weird.

We took a cab to the hotel. We were immediately introduced to a Spanish cultural vignette.  We had a really nice friendly driver who cut off another driver as they jockeyed for lanes going into a short tunnel and the two of them had a back and forth through open windows that was fairly rancorous, but not nearly as rancorous as one would expect in New York.  I remember worrying just a bit if people in Spain were wont to pull a gun as an answer to  road rage.  The shouting back and forth  went on for quite some time as the traffic was crawling around a circle, the sun brilliant, the air warm.  And then the two men started speaking more softly, even chuckling about the whole thing, and eventually laughingly said goodbye to each other as the traffic picked up speed.   Welcome to Spain!

I was so very conscious of us being American and assuming we would be judged as awful because of Trump.  I had wanted to get a “not my president” button or some such thing to wear but never got around to finding anything.  But in the first few interactions, with the cab driver and the lovely people checking us into the hotel, I realized that it was not on their minds, just mine.  I didn’t escape the feeling entirely, but the only ones to bring up the subject were some Americans I encountered a few days later.

I think we got to the hotel around noon.

The hotel was really great. It is the Petit Palace Lealtad, one of a chain of Petit Palace hotels of which we passed four or five in Madrid.  But it did not feel like a chain at all.  It is in an old building with beautiful old elevator doors and a lovely interior staircase.  The rooms have plaster trim on the ceiling and columns with fancy tops, and Isabel made sure we had a balcony, which had windows that open letting in fresh air and surprisingly little street noise.  The old is mixed with the new with some exposed brick wall when you walk in, and a lovely bathroom with a multi-function shower and a door with jelly fish.

We unpacked and showered, which took a while because we were punchy. I think we left the room around 1:30 or 2. We were starving and I hadn’t had any caffeine, so I’d found a restaurant a five minute walk from the hotel, right around the corner from the back side of the Prado, El Botanico.   We sat outside in a group of tables on the sidewalk.  We were deciding between seafood paella and “black” paella, and I told Isabel about Jim’s and my first meal in Venice on our honeymoon, which was squid ink risotto, so my vote was for squid ink for our first meal in Madrid.  It came with mussels, clams, and shrimp and was a beautiful, glistening black.  We had flan for dessert.  It was so delightful eating really good food in the warm – mid- to high-70s – sunshine.

During the meal Isabel said she thought, ‘That lipstick color really isn’t good on her,’ until she figured out it was the paella. When she pointed it out to me, I pointed out to her that she looked like she’d been done up like a snaggle-toothed person in a movie.  Not only delicious, but amusing.

The restaurant is right across the street from the entrance to the botanical gardens, so we went there after our leisurely and late lunch.  The gardens were just coming into bloom with daffodils, pansies, camellias, magnolias, forsythia, and a few other things out. And fruit trees with lemons and other citrus. The air was so soft, so relaxing. The city feels relaxed in most parts, tons of kids and dogs, easy to walk around in, very clean and beautiful.

We saw parrots in the botanical garden! Two were at one of the fountains.  I had to take the photos from a few yards away so I didn’t frighten them.

The gardens were laid out with many sections, according to a variety of categorizations.  I loved looking closely at the thistles and vegetables.

When we were done in the gardens, we wandered around the other side of the Prado, where we  saw, actually mostly heard, more parrots, a whole giant tree full of them.

We were really, really thirsty and started on a quest for a shopping area that we thought would have water. We walked down the Gran Via for ages, stopping at a couple of stores and getting more and more dehydrated.


I was in full-out zombie mode from dehydration when we saw a gluten-free bakery Celicioso and picked out some desserts, a cupcake for Isabel, a piece of Tarta de Santiago cake for me, and two very, very badly-needed waters. But we wanted to sit down to eat them as our feet were screaming, so the guy said we should sit and he’d bring our stuff to us. So we sat down at a table.  And we waited.  Dying for water, which we just had in our hands.  At least 20 minutes later a waitress comes over and we explain that what we picked out was up at the counter.  After about ten more minutes (the counter was two steps away from the tables) she came back with the cupcake.  We explained that we had water and the tart.  She came back again after several minutes with the tart.  Then she was standing around and I would catch her eye and she would make a motion like she suddenly remembered that we needed something else and bring a water.  But only one at a time with several minutes in between.   Of course the waters were the last thing. It was really strange.  I was thinking maybe they were cooking something extra into the baked goods they were sampling.  There is no other explanation.  The cupcake was so-so, But that tart was fantastic.  It turns out it’s an almond cake made with only almond flour.  I looked up the recipe.  Now all I need is someone to make it for me!

I emerged from my zombie state after the water, and we walked all around an area called Chuacha. There are lots of restaurants that looked great and fun and lots of shops. But by the time we’d been reconstituted with the water, it was 9/9:30. So we stopped in a few shops and then headed back to the hotel, going through the Plaza de Cibeles, Cibeles being a sun and earth goddess.  The Palacio de Cibeles, if you look closely at the picture you can see it, had a huge “Refugees Welcome” sign hanging on the front of it, in English.



360 degree seeming sunset during totality

8/21/17 – Shadow, Corona, and Diamond Ring in Nebraska


Jim is not one for half measures.  And Jim wanted to see the solar eclipse in totality – and without clouds.  And see it we did, in totality, with a cloudless sky:

Panoramic view before the eclipse started.

360 degree seeming sunset during totality

360 degree view of seeming sunset during totality.

Neither totality nor clear weather were the conditions where Jim is currently working, in NYC, or at our home, in Western Massachusetts, where I started the odyssey.  And the weather where Jim had originally planned for us to watch was for clouds and rain.  It took some rather extraordinary measures to find and get to a place with the correct conditions, a testament to Jim’s perseverance and also his skill at getting around in unfamiliar territory.

Amsterdam, Day 9, Haarlem and Droog


We went to out Waterlooplein Metro stop this morning, near the “Stopera”, combination state house and opera. Jim had read about this line in the sidewalk outlining the perimeter of an orphanage for Jewish children, which was emptied by the Nazis, all the children sent to camps.  Another sobering reminder.  When we were in Paris in 2007, there were many plaques showing where people had been killed during the war.  While sad and disturbing, it is good to see these kinds of commemorations and reminders.


Enlarge any picture by clicking.

Amsterdam, Day 8, Van Gogh Museum and Concert Gebouw


We spent from 10:00 to 3:30 at the Van Gogh Museum. It is very nicely laid out, with his work going chonologically. There were sufficient descriptions, but not too many. What’s really lovely is that no photography is allowed (and we saw only two people taking illegal pictures). So there are people listening to their audio tours who will stand in a prime viewing spot for a painting for what seems way too long, but no jockeying for position for the best angle to take a photo, no selfie sticks, and while it was crowded, not nearly as crowded as New York museums seem to be without exception all the time now.