Sunset Sedona hike; sunny Chino Valley views

10/14/21

Today’s is a dual post: the evening hike I had yesterday with my friend Denise around Bell Rock in Sedona, and then today’s prairie beauty in Chino Valley.

Last night, Denise kindly ferried me from Sedona to her place here in Chino Valley, just north of Prescott. (Transit wasn’t an option, and the distance plus elevation made it not workable for me to bicycle.)

On the way, we passed through the incredibly quirky and charming mountain-village ghost town of Jerome, Arizona, another National Historic Landmark Town. Sadly, we passed through in the dark, so I didn’t take any pics, but I got a feel for the place since many bars and galleries seemed to be open, so the town had a cozy yet vibrant feel. If you’re ever in northern Arizona, stop by and check it out!

Today was a lazy day, hanging out with the cat and strolling over to the prairie on the edge of the neighborhood. I found the prospect of the vast expanse too overwhelming to walk through, so I stuck to a small trail along the fence, which also introduced me to a friendly neighbor horse. (Sorry, no pic of the horse nor the cat.)

Tomorrow I’ll be meeting up with a few friends in the Prescott area, before heading south toward Phoenix. I’ve never been to Prescott, or any surrounding area until today, so I’m looking forward to that, as well as connecting with friends I haven’t seen in years.

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Afternoon hike in Sedona

Today (10/13–I’m posting this the next day) was a gorgeous, clear sunny day in Sedona, after yesterday’s clouds and the previous day’s wind. I ventured out for a short hike in the nearby Coconino National Forest. It’s strange for me to think of a “forest” (or even a “nature park” or “natural area”) as being mostly desert, with few trees. For my past 31 years in NW Oregon, whenever I’ve seen a green area on a map, that means tall trees all around! These new landscapes take some mental adjustment for me.

But they are beautiful landscapes.

I arrived at the ranger station of this park, and was disappointed to find no bicycle parking anywhere. Bikes were technically allowed on the trails, but I am not a mountain biker, and my Brompton is not a mountain bike! So I found a railing to lock it up to, and set out on a very rocky path that went through a stream. The scenery was beautiful as always. (Not pictured: juniper trees littering the ground with berries, and a dead snake. I had been afraid of encountering a live snake, but wasn’t expecting the dried body of a deceased one. Such is the desert, I suppose…)

On the way back to my host’s house in Oak Village, I once again marveled at the views of stunning red mountains clearly visible from the highway.

What a magical place.

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Spectacular Sedona surrounds

10/12/21

Today was a quiet day, mostly indoors since the weather was a bit chilly. So, without much to report, instead I’ll share the second half of yesterday’s bike-trip scenery. All these photos are from just south of Sedona, on my way to my host’s house in Oak Creek Village. The timing of the sun was splendid.

I’m loving Arizona so far!

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Stunning scenery, challenging riding conditions: Flagstaff to Sedona

10/11/21

Wowww, what a day.

First, let me say that in my lovely Oak Creek Village host’s house, just south of Sedona, I am warm and comfortable, but outside I can hear the wind howling. (See my screenshot of the weather alert from this evening.) The forecast seems to have been moderated quite a bit since I first started rearranging my plans to accommodate it: the temp here is 61 at 9:40 pm, and tomorrow should be a partly-cloudy high 55/low 41. A bit chillier than I would hope for, but so much warmer than the original forecast, and so much more pleasant than Flagstaff’s forecast: rain and snow tonight, then windy and 43/25 tomorrow. Yikes! I’m so glad I decided to come down here today, rather than taking the extra day in Flagstaff I had originally planned, and biking down here tomorrow.

However, although today’s ride scenery was absolutely breathtaking (I’m sharing the first part today, and I’ll plan to share the second part—Sedona area—tomorrow, because there were just too many amazing views to put all in one day, and I’m not planning to get out much tomorrow) the conditions were probably the most physically challenging that I’ve encountered so far on the trip.

First, it was a bit chillier and windier than I would have liked when I set out this morning, around 11. The temperature did remain manageable throughout the day: I sometimes wore my fleece zipped up over my T-shirt, sometimes unzipped, but never did end up needing the rain shell I kept tied around my waist all day just in case, nor the gloves in its pockets that I had feared I would need.

But the wind was unpleasantly strong for most of my 6+ hour day on the road, and it was mostly a headwind.

In addition, it turned out that yesterday’s gravel-road snafu was good training for today: Google Maps routed me out of Flagstaff via a gravel bike path that stretched for miles. It was very scenic, amid ponderosa groves—and the trees sheltered me surprisingly effectively from the winds, which I noticed when the gravel finally gave way to pavement—but it is much more difficult to ride on gravel, vs. a smooth surface. That relatively short portion of the trip took me dramatically longer than I had expected, and required quite a bit more physical exertion. It was also scary at times; I nearly skidded and wiped out on three or four occasions, riding downhill and/or over deep ruts.

Once I got onto Hwy 89A, the scenery soon turned incredible, but there were also long stretches with hairpin turns and minimal shoulders, and pretty heavy (and often impatient) auto traffic along the road. I had to pull over at almost every opportunity I got, to let streams of cars past. (One of the drivers honked angrily as they did so—how dare anyone take up road space on a bike, and slow them down for a couple of minutes? I was glad that at least they didn’t spit on me or lob any projectiles; I’ve heard stories from other touring cyclists. Perhaps I will enjoy those pleasures later in my trip…)

But for all the challenges, this 40-mile ride today was possibly the most beautiful ride I’ve had so far on this trip, which is really saying something. Again, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:

On my way out of Flagstaff, I stopped at its one all-vegan restaurant, a Thai place called Red Curry. I picked up a delicious eggplant-broccoli-carrot-tofu-basil dish, which I carried in the trailer all day since I had just had a satisfying oatmeal breakfast at my Flagstaff hosts’ place. I enjoyed the Thai meal once I arrived at my destination at my local host’s home.

Sometimes on this journey there are definitely challenges. And at the end of each day (and often throughout) they are so worth it.

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One month into my journey: the Grand Canyon!

10/10/21

As of today, it has been one month since I began my epic year-long journey, from my comfortable spot of the past 15 years in SE Portland. And wow, has it been a blast so far! I had always assumed I would love this trip, but I think it’s safe to say my experiences have surpassed my expectations so far. I am loving this lifestyle!

Exhibit A: Today I got to see the Grand Canyon!

What a spectacular place.

I don’t really have much to write about it (and there’s no internet in Flagstaff on many Sunday nights, apparently, including this one, so I’ll be posting this tomorrow) so I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves, even though they absolutely cannot do it justice.

A few of the photos are an attempt to capture some of the beautiful trees (mostly ponderosa pines, and a few gloriously autumnal aspens) from the drive back to my Servas host family’s place in Flagstaff.

We also hit up the farmers’ market this morning, before the canyon. Check out those gourds!

Yes. I am living the life I love right now.

Tomorrow: Oak Creek Village, just south of Sedona. I hear the ride should be gorgeous; I’m looking forward to it!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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A farewell to New Mexico

10/9/21

Today was another beautiful travel day. I’m writing from Flagstaff, where the train dropped me off at about 10 pm. (About an hour and a half late, but my Servas host was kind enough to pick me up, which I very much appreciated since the temperature was 45, and I wasn’t really dressed for that.)

This morning I set out from my Santa Fe Warmshowers host’s place. I swung by the Saturday farmers’ market on the way out of town, hoping to find some breakfast or maybe a treat to take with me on the train. Unfortunately there wasn’t much prepared food on offer, but I was impressed by the large and bustling market, full of farmers and vendors of preserves, hot sauces, and such. On my way in, a woman was leafleting about an upcoming bike-lane advocacy event. I was sorry to tell her I was on my way out of town; that would have been a worthwhile event to have attended.

Shortly after I left the market, I came upon a lovely little memorial rose garden, with a fountain and some benches, so I took the opportunity to rest and eat a Clif bar. Right when I did, the friend I’ll be staying with in Mt. Shasta later this month messaged me, so we had a brief conversation as I enjoyed the peaceful plaza.

The rest of the ride to the train station in Lamy was beautiful, although not without challenges. It was funny, because just last night as we pedaled home from the food cart, my host Matt and I had been talking about Google Maps’ bike directions, and how usually they are great, but sometimes they may send you on a bit of a wild goose chase by finding “shortcuts” that may be very rough or difficult-to-access-or-navigate roads or paths.

Sure enough, as I followed the directions today, when I was about ¾ of the way to Lamy, the app told me to take a left from Hwy 285 onto Ranch Road. After about half a mile, it directed me to turn right onto Cattle Drive, which would then apparently turn into “Loose Caboose Lane”(!) and then into one other short street, depositing me at the train station.

Cattle Drive turned out to be a gravel road, and I really prefer to avoid gravel roads. I’m always afraid a sharp stone might puncture or damage a tire, not to mention that the loose gravel can be dangerous to navigate because of skidding, especially on downhills. Finally, those roads can be dusty, and I prefer not to kick up too much dust onto the underside of my trailer if I can help it.

But, this was Google’s direction, and as I glanced at the larger map, there didn’t appear to be an easy alternative. So I set out on Cattle Drive.

I was moving slowly, staying in my lowest gear to be safe. But I could feel how much extra effort was required to ride on the gravel, versus smooth pavement. I could feel the extra exertion in my body. But I knew I was near my destination, so I assured myself that I could do it.

After maybe half a mile, I grew dubious about the route, as I seemed to near a dead end. There were dirt paths going in a few directions, but they didn’t seem like real roads, and the app was directing me forward, through a gate. Was this a private residence…? Ugh, this felt awkward.

Just then, I received a notification text from Amtrak that my train was delayed nearly an hour. Well, OK, that was a relief, if I was stuck out here and would need to backtrack…

I proceeded through the gate to see if perhaps there was a road ahead beyond my field of vision. I did find two possible paths, but one was a steep downhill on gravel, and looked like a dead end, and the other just appeared to be a dirt path. The third option appeared to be a private driveway.

I stood there stymied for a moment, thankful at least to know that I had plenty of time, and the weather was pleasant, and I didn’t need a restroom or water refill.

I could figure this out.

Miraculously, just then a car began coming out the driveway. I flagged it down, and a very kind woman named Julie got out and did her best to help me. She confirmed that yes, I was on private property (hers, I assume, though she didn’t say so explicitly) and that the two paths I had been skeptically considering were indeed dead ends.

She pointed at another path, just outside her gate, that she said she had heard rumored to lead all the way to the train station.

Wow, OK! Maybe I could take that path after all, although it didn’t appear to be exactly where Google Maps was directing me.

She wanted to make sure, though, so she went back to her car for her phone and called a neighbor to confirm. The neighbor told her that this path was not a good idea; it was very bumpy and nearly impassable in places.

Wow. Glad she checked.

She said my best bet would be to retrace my steps back out the gravel road, and get back on 285 until Hwy 33, then take that to the station. I looked on the map. It was definitely a less direct route, and I was less than thrilled at the prospect of having to backtrack over all that gravel again, which apparently I had traversed for naught.

But I saw no alternative, so I prepared to do so.

She then offered to give me and my rig a ride out to the pavement, which was extra generous of her because she had grabbed a mask when she first came over to me, explaining that she was vaccinated but immune-compromised. I had immediately donned my own mask when she said that—and assured her that I was also vaccinated—but I thought it was especially kind of her to offer to drive me, given her health status.

I declined. I knew I had time, and I wanted to challenge myself to do it under my own power.

She also offered me water or an energy bar, but I was well stocked, so I thanked her but said I was OK.

She drove off—carefully, so as not to kick up dust in my direction—and I followed. I was still feeling disappointed about having to traverse the gravel, but reminded myself that this would by no means be my last gravel traveling on this journey, so I might as well get in some practice.

And just as I had this thought, I looked up and saw some solar panels on the property to my right.

I took this as a sign that I was on the right track, and smiled to myself as I made my way out to the paved road.

The extra few miles on Hwy 285 and 33 were beautiful, so I was ultimately glad for the opportunity to bike them.

Just as the pavement ended, the tiny train station came into view.

The train continued to be delayed a few more times, but I had some good conversation with the station agent and a few other passengers, two of whom were a mother and daughter traveling from Boston and also heading to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.

I ate my co-op sushi lunch, and finished it off with the pistachio-chocolate treat I had bought at the Santa Fe chocolatier yesterday.

The train ride was about six hours, and I finally got to have a nice conversation with a fellow passenger in the lounge for an hour or so. I sipped my tea-and-vodka cocktail and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, which before long turned into a stunning sunset.

Now, I’m excited to be here in Flagstaff, and looking forward to the Grand Canyon tomorrow!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Small world, and a dramatic dinner, in Santa Fe

10/8/21

Another full day today! There were some pretty cool—and even dramatic—moments, amidst a visually lovely town. Yesterday I had stayed mostly on the outskirts of the city, including some strip-mall-heavy areas. Today I went into the “real” Santa Fe, and I can see why people love it. It felt almost unreal, like a movie set or an alternate timeline.

Around noon I said goodbye to my host on the outskirts of town, and cycled back in the way I had gone yesterday. I stopped on the way in a beautiful park along the riverfront path to make a few phone calls (transportation and lodging logistics, always!) and then found my way to my Warmshowers host’s place, right in the heart of Santa Fe and just a few blocks away from the co-op.

I needed to get a few groceries, so I thought I’d check out Sprouts first, then the co-op again if need be. As I was locking up my bike on a railing outside Sprouts (I have to say, I am not very impressed by the bike-parking infrastructure in Santa Fe, though I heard that is changing) I heard my name! I looked up, and who should I see but my host from the last two days, with a friend he had invited for dinner tonight; they were at the store picking up ingredients.

I chuckled at the small world, and went inside.

Afterward, I meandered to a beautiful small park outside the St. Francis basilica. As I rested on a bench, with my bike partially folded in front of me, a couple walked by and the man said, “I like your Brompton! I have one too!”

Wow, what are the odds?

His wife added, “But his is green!”

Haha, cute. Again, small world.

After that, I pedaled over to a local chocolate shop, arriving shortly before they closed. Wow: the selection looked delectable, and even just the vegan options were overwhelming! I finally managed to select a few, which I plan to devour very soon, perhaps on the train tomorrow.

Then it was getting to be dinnertime, so tonight’s host and I met up at a vegan Jamaican food cart nearby.

The food was delicious (banana pancake, atop four different savory dishes? wow!) and we were enjoying some conversation about our various bike travels as the sunlight was waning, when something very unexpected and jarring happened: the proprietor of the food cart pulled into the gravel parking lot in his car, and began trying to back into the area in front of the cart.

My host and I had sort of propped our bikes where we could find space, in the gravel lot that also served as the ordering and eating area. The owner, focusing on backing up without hitting the cart, accidentally ran over my host’s bike! We watched it from a distance, not really grokking what we were seeing for a moment. Then we ran over, while another employee of the cart had seen what was happening and had begun frantically yelling at her boss to “stop, stop!”

But the bike wheel was under the car’s tire by then.

It seemed to take at least five rather tense minutes of communication and triangulation to move the car sufficiently, in the right direction, to retrieve the bike. (The car was simultaneously in peril of hitting the food cart, as well as backing over some supplies that had just been delivered by UPS when I was placing my order. A good solution was not obvious.)

My host—whom I had already found to be a very easygoing guy—stayed remarkably calm during the whole ordeal. I marveled at this, as I was horrified for his bike, and all that this might mean for him.

But amazingly, the bike emerged seemingly unscathed. Not even a scratch! The rear wheel had been pinned under the car’s tire for several minutes. But the wheel seemed to turn just fine, and the tire was not damaged.

Amazing.

The driver/owner got out of the car and surveyed the scene, apologizing profusely. My host assured him everything was OK, and we all chatted for a few minutes before setting out for home. His bike seemed to function perfectly fine, and the ride was pleasant, with a segment along that beautiful riverfront path again.

And now, I’ve got laundry in the machine, and I’ve had a few more logistical conversations with future hosts by phone, text, and email.

(Maybe this would be a good time for me to enjoy some of that chocolate…?)

Tomorrow, I’ll be biking to the tiny train depot in Lamy, New Mexico, about 20 miles south of here. I may stop at the farmers’ market on the way out of town, if I have time. Then I’ll hop on the train to Flagstaff, where I will stay with my first Servas host family.

Looking forward to all the new experiences!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Natural beauty, and internal reckoning, in Santa Fe

10/7/21

Today I got a slow start, leaving the house around 2 pm. Actually, though, I’m realizing on this journey that that’s just how I roll. Sometimes I find myself shaming myself for “being lazy” and “wasting daylight,” but that’s just my natural rhythm. I’ve always been a night owl, and I often go to sleep around 1:00 or even later. In the mornings, I like to wake up slowly, and then check my blog post responses, emails, social media, etc. Then maybe I’ll have some breakfast. Then maybe I’ll take a shower. Then maybe I’ll do some “administrative” tasks, such as dealing with financial stuff, or contacting people to arrange or fine-tune my lodging arrangements over the next few days. Heck, if I have time, I might even enjoy a phone call with a friend or relative. There are also some physical therapy exercises I need to do each day. (I had been putting them off, but when I stayed with my friend Michelle in Albuquerque, she is a physical therapist, so she helped me to get going on that again.)

So it’s often close to noon, or even later, by the time I get outside. I had noticed that back home in Portland, in the early days of the pandemic, too. On the days I didn’t have to go to work, sometimes I would stay in bed until noon or even later. I would eventually make it outside in the afternoon, and then spend a couple of hours enjoying the natural beauty (and afternoon light!) of the neighborhood… and then head back inside for dinner.

The part of me that was raised in a Puritanical culture that frowns upon such diurnal rhythms and “sloth” would sometimes shame me. And I find myself fighting that inner voice on this trip sometimes.

But really, I am harming no one by these behaviors and preferences. And I am living the life I love! I’ve never been particularly athletic or outdoorsy. (At least not since adolescence.) So this journey is pushing my edges. It’s OK if I only experience a few hours of outdoor exploration some days. I savor those hours. And I savor my slow, self-care pace.

It’s interesting to find myself in this magical, extremely lucky position of having a year to live exactly as I wish to live. Things have been going so well. I’m so incredibly grateful. And, interestingly, even living such a “perfect” life right now pushes me up against the edges of my comfort zone sometimes, in terms of confronting “shoulds” and internal voices telling me I’m “doing it wrong.”

I’ve got plenty of time ahead of me this year, though, to practice sinking deeper into myself and my own joy. I celebrate that!

So today, I left the house about 2:00, and headed into town to visit the Santa Fe outpost of the La Montanita Co-op. I took the less-busy-road route that my host had suggested, rather than Google Maps’ first suggestion. I was glad I did; the traffic was low, and the scenery was pretty.

But then I had a mini anxiety attack at the co-op, sitting at an outside table eating my grilled tofu wrap: Was I squandering my time in this new-to-me city? Where should I go? How could I maximize my experience of this place? How could I best appreciate this wonderful weather? (I had just looked at the Flagstaff forecast for when I plan to be there in a few days, and was shocked and concerned about the low temps, so that knowledge was hanging over me.) Was my phone going to run out of power before I could take all the photos I wanted, and/or before I could use it to navigate around town and then back home? (I had brought a power cord, but not an extra battery.)

What should I dooooo??

I decided to take a 15-minute time-out, and flip over the phone, and just sit quietly and feel into what I really wanted, rather than trying to use my mind to “optimize my experience,” lest I commit the sin of failing to make the most of it.

I decided I wanted to visit Annapurna’s again; I hadn’t been to their Santa Fe location, but I always love their food, including the other day in Albuquerque with Michelle and Steve.

I looked it up on the map, and was delighted to find that getting there could be done mostly on a beautiful bike trail. Once again, I was rewarded for following my heart’s desire, by finding myself on a beautiful off-road path. As I pedaled, I reflected that what I most enjoy while traveling is connecting with locals, experiencing local parks and bike paths, and visiting local co-ops and vegan restaurants. Other “shopping” (and thus shopping districts) does not appeal to me, especially with my limited budget and very limited space. I do enjoy local attractions sometimes, such as gardens and museums, but not always the most popular or obvious ones.

So… here I was, a late riser and late get-out-the-door-er, bicycling in beautiful weather along a dedicated bike path, from the local co-op to a local vegetarian restaurant. I was absolutely living my dreams. There was no need for stress.

I even passed a cool labyrinth in one of the parks I biked through. I didn’t feel called to walk it myself, but I enjoyed seeing it.

I got a lovely meal at the restaurant, dining on the patio in the late afternoon light. On my way in, I got a compliment on my bike.

I love this bike!

I love this life!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Breathtaking sights in Taos and surrounds (including Earthships!)

10/6/21

Wow, what an incredible day.

Each time I think the scenery on this trip can’t get any more beautiful, something new surprises me.

This morning, Michelle and I hopped in her car and headed north to Taos, Earthship Biotecture, the cute village of Arroyo Seco, and ultimately to my new host’s place in Santa Fe. Along the way, we crossed the bridge of the Rio Grande Gorge.  (Yes, the Rio Grande. I had been unaware of this gorge, and it was stunning in person.)

All along the drive, the October colors were starting to show in the trees, the mountains, and the sunlight and blue sky that was filled with gorgeous puffy clouds casting otherworldly shadows on the hills below.

After we crossed the canyon bridge, we soon arrived at the Earthship Biotecture community and demonstration site. After having been vaguely aware of this place, and of the concept of Earthships, for some decades, it was so cool for me to see them in person, to feel their scale and their place within the landscape, and to learn more about how they work. I found our self-guided tour to be very inspiring, although also a bit disheartening when I considered what a small percentage of building plans in the United States make use of these commonsense sustainable principles and practices. I encourage you to take a look at the Earthship Biotecture site to learn more. They even offer internships, if you or anyone you know might be interested in traveling to Taos for a three-week stint of living and learning on-site.

After we had our fill of the Earthships, we headed over to a sculpture garden in nearby Arroyo Seco, which was bathed in incredible light. We found some lunch at a local café, and then marveled at the spectacular natural color of the fields, trees, mountains, and sky as we left.

Sometimes it almost feels like too much for me, to take in so many inspiring sights, so much beauty, and so much rich human interaction in such concentrated time frames. But, that is a big part of this journey, and overall I am loving it. Tomorrow I plan to venture into Santa Fe to see the sights in a town I’ve always heard good things about. (My host—the son of some Portland friends—lives just outside of town in a beautiful New Mexico styled house, complete with multiple fruit trees!)

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Train ride to Albuquerque

10/5/21

I woke up this morning on the train, after an admittedly fitful night of sleep as we jostled around curves all night. (I got a nap this afternoon, which felt divine, though I hope it doesn’t keep me awake all night tonight.)

I made my way to the dining car for a nice breakfast of oatmeal, fresh fruit, and potatoes. Because of social distancing, I ate at a table alone. This was kind of sad, because one of my favorite things about train travel over the years has been the camaraderie of the dining car, being seated with new strangers at each meal and hearing about each other’s travels, present and past. But, at least the scenery was glorious.

The next couple hours I spent in my roomette and the lounge car, enjoying the beautiful Southwestern views.

My good friend Michelle met me on the platform in Albuquerque, and we hit the local co-op so that I could replenish my supplies, then relaxed in her home until her husband returned from work, and then we all went out to dinner at one of my favorite Albuquerque restaurants, Annapurna’s.

After the meal, we returned home and played with the cats until a friend of theirs arrived to chat with me about my travels, which was fun and pleasant in their outdoor living-room area.

Now it’s time for sleep again. Tomorrow I’m excited to check out Taos, New Mexico, and especially the nearby Earthships!

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