Santa Fe

Kit, Claire, and I all took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico this week.  Kit went for a three-day liver biopsy conference, and Claire and I just went along for fun.  We decided that Molly was still not up for an extended trip like this; with her still somewhat baby-like sleeping and eating requirements, we would be pretty well tethered to the hotel and would not have a chance to explore.  Maybe next year, Molly will “pull herself together” enough for this kind of trip, as Kit and I like to say. But this time, Molly stayed at home with Grammy and Grandaddy, who offered to come up and lavish her with attention while we were out of town.
Describing a big trip like this can quickly get out of hand for a single blog post. And hey, this is a kid blog, not a travel log.  So this post will focus on Claire’s experience of the trip rather than our tourist impressions of New Mexico as such.  Suffice it to say that New Mexico was beautiful, and Kit learned a lot about livers (I suppose). Now let me just paint a sketch of how the trip went for Claire, and I’ll try not to let it get too long…
Claire was very excited about the airplane flight in particular. She got to pack her carry-on Mickey Mouse suitcase with more or less whatever she wanted to entertain herself on the trip. She piled it full of books, notepads, and stickerbooks. In the interest of keeping things running smoothly in case Claire got bored over the next few days in airplanes, cars, and the hotel room, I packed some extra electronic entertainment such as her Leapster game system, some movies and games on the iPad, and even some audiobooks to listen to. As it would turn out, Claire did not need any of this stuff. She spent most of her travel time drawing in her special travel notebook from Noni, talking and joking around with me and Kit, and reading books with me and Kit.
Claire spent most of her flying time drawing with her fuzzy green pen.
On the plane, we also talked a lot about our route to Santa Fe: fly from Austin to Houston, then fly to Albuquerque by another plane, then take a bus to pick up a rental care, then drive to Santa Fe. Claire jokingly called Albuquerque “Albu-cookie”. In the Houston airport, Claire got to choose pretty much whatever she wanted for lunch, and she ended up with a collection of curiously retro food: Fritos, Orange Crush, and a turkey sandwich. What is this, 1979? By the way, that Orange Crush made it all the way to Santa Fe, where Claire continued to sip on it daily throughout the rest of the trip, and not for lack of other (fresher) options.

Claire travels back to a 1979 TV commercial for lunch.
Once in New Mexico, we drove the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe. Claire had been interested in seeing the desert, but had also been worried about being poked by a cactus.  Fortunately, we steered clear of cactuses (alright, “cacti”). Claire had expected New Mexico to look like the desert planet Tatooine from Star Wars. It was not quite as sandy as that, but in Madrid, NM, we did come across something that looked kind of like the feared Sand People of Tatooine.

Claire runs from a Sand Person
A “real” Sand Person, as a matter of comparison
By the time we actually got to Santa Fe, we were all exhausted, and we dined in our hotel room on Lunchables from the local convenience store, and then went right to bed. 
The next morning, Kit headed downstairs for her conference, and Claire and I headed out to explore Santa Fe on foot.  We ended up in the literally freezing wind at the beautiful central plaza.  The cold weather was sort of a shock coming from the balmy weather back home. We ducked into a mall across the street from where there was supposed to be a great breakfast restaurant where we were supposed to be having a nice warm breakfast right now.  But alas, the restaurant was closed for remodeling.  The mall, and actually the whole city, was empty, I guess because it was Sunday morning and everything was closed.  We slowly trudged our way back two or three blocks to the hotel, ducking in for cover from the wind as the situation allowed.  Claire complained bitterly about the cold, which was not like her. She did not even want to walk and asked me to carry her the whole way. We made it to the hotel and eventually took the car to an open restaurant (which we ended up going to three different times) where we warmed up over some breakfast and a gigantic hot chocolate, which Claire barely touched.  
Then we tried heading out again, this time to a park overlooking the city. Claire was miserable the very minute we got out of the car, and she begged to go back to the car as soon as I took this one picture of her being miserable.

Claire continue to complain and was not acting like herself the rest of the day. She eventually settled into an unusually quiet mood and seemed somehow uncomfortable.  Only later did we put it together that she was probably sick and exhausted and just gathering enough strength for me to drag her around town. Poor thing.  Anyways, we did manage to meet up with Kit for lunch.

We did manage to see some of Kit. 

Still not realizing Claire was probably sick, I took her to the local children’s museum in hopes of lifting her spirits.  It kind of worked.

Claire loved the museum’s kid-sized door.
The museum had yet another Star Wars reference to enjoy.

The next day, we took the 90-minute drive to Taos to see the 1000-year-old pueblo.  I explained to Claire that when pilgrims landed in American, this village was already here, and it was already hundreds of years old.  That actually did impress Claire, who responded with a genuine, “Wow!  Really?”  The drive to Taos was scenic, and it was a good chance for Claire to sit and rest up.  At Claire’s behest, we played “Max and Emma” for almost the whole drive up and back.  This is a game where Claire is a girl once year older than Claire named Emma, and I am her little toddler brother named Max.  Occasionally Emma reverts to a baby, but usually she’s older.  The game is mostly about talking funny, and she especially like when little Max badly slurs his “S” sounds because he’s a toddler.  She’ll also give me ideas to riff on, such as, “Pretend you think those rocks are giant meatballs and you want to eat them, and you get really upset because you can’t…” Anyways, that got us to Taos.

At the Taos Pueblo, Claire was asked where all the Indians were.  I pointed out a few locals, and she seemed surprised, I think because they were not wearing native clothing.  We were told not to take pictures of the natives without asking their permission.  Claire, who also had a disposable camera from Noni for her travels, took this rule very seriously and went to great trouble to not take anyone’s picture.  She thought she might have accidentally taken a local’s picture, but the panic was over when I told her it was just another tourist like us.

Claire at her favorite spot at Taos Pueblo.
Claire wanted to take a picture of her camera.
But she first made sure it was okay, with the picture rules and all.

We made friends with a couple of village dogs and chatted with some storekeepers before buying some small pottery for Kit.  Claire loved to hang out at the river and was fascinated by all the insects, mostly ants, crawling around the common dirt area.  There was even a gigantic ant carrying a whole dead caterpillar back to it’s clam-sized hole all by itself.  Right around that point, the fascination turned to fear, and we carefully hopped around the insects all the way back to the car.  Then it was a stop by the modern town of Toas for some souvenir shopping and lunch.

Claire was pretty droopy by this point.
But she did her best to put a good face on it. 

Then it was back to Santa Fe.  On the drive back, you guessed it, more Max and Emma.

Let me just wrap this thing up with a few final highlights…

We were able to sneak Kit out of town during an extended lunch break for a quick trip to the closer-by pueblo of Tesuque.  It was good to show Kit some of the countryside north of Santa Fe and some pueblo goodness.

At Tesuque, we found a real-live tumble weed,
which looked better tumbling around on the ground.
On the way back, we also got to see this cool rock thingy by the highway.

I think this was called “Devil’s Rock”,
or something like that.
On the final day, once we realized just how worn-out Claire was, we took it super easy and went to see a movie in the afternoon.  We chose the only kid’s movie, Gnoneo and Juliet, which was pretty enjoyable, actually.  Being a kid’s movie at 2:40 on a Tuesday afternoon, Claire and I were the only ones in the theater.  It was a little weird with nobody else around, but we did not have to whisper when we wanted to talk to each other.
The plane flight home was dominated by jokes from a book of 2000 kid’s jokes, supplied by Grammy for the trip.  The book did have roughly 2000 jokes.  At least.  I guess what lacked in quality it made up for in quantity. 🙂  Claire absolutely loved this book, although she did not really understand most of the jokes.  She just liked the tone and delivery of the jokes. She did pick out a doctor joke for Kit, “What do you call a children’s knees? Kidneys.”  Claire spent most of the flight home making up her own jokes, including a “New Mexico joke” what went like this, “Why did the hill go to the hospital?  Because it got poked by a cactus.”  This went on for hours, until we stopped to literally run across the Houston airport to catch our connection to Austin.  We made it to the gate after everyone had been seated, with about five minutes until take off.
By the way, New Mexico was a new state for Claire.
Okay, that should do it.  I am worn out, and it’s time to move on.  I think that should paint a more than ample picture of the trip.  (Jeez, next time I really need to keep these trip blogs to a minimum!)

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