Tag Archives: United States

Summer Road Trip 2016: Colorado and Utah

Our end of summer one-week road trip around Colorado and Utah: Rocky Mountains, hot springs, ancient Native American ruins, canyons and arches.

 

Our week-long road trip adventure through Colorado and Utah began as a plan to visit some of my family in Fort Collins, Colorado over Labor Day Weekend. Neither of us had ever been to Colorado, so we decided to rent a car and make a road trip out of it the week following.

In addition to Colorado, we decided to incorporate Utah into our road trip as well. When I graduated college back in 2004, one of my best friends and I went on a three-week road trip around Southwest USA. It was an amazing trip, and two of the places that I really wanted to go back to with Paddy were Arches National Park in Utah and Monument Valley in Utah/Arizona.

Days 1-3:

We arrived in Denver mid-morning on Saturday, an easy two and a half our flight from Seattle. We had reserved a car with Enterprise through Kayak.com, which we were able to pick up and return back to the airport. We chose Enterprise over the slightly less expensive Budget car rental because Enterprise does not charge for an extra driver if the two drivers are married. Budget wanted to charge an additional $20.00 per day if we both wanted to be drivers.

**Note: Always reserve a rental car ahead of time, especially on busy holiday weekends. I saw a gentleman turned away at the counter at Enterprise, as they weren’t accepting walk-ins for the holiday weekend. In addition, you often get a better rate if you reserve far in advance.

My parents joined us for the weekend as well, and the first three days were mostly spent visiting with my family. Paddy and I were staying with my cousin and her fiance in Severance, CO just outside of Fort Collins.

Our biggest adventure on Saturday was eating Rocky Mountain oysters with my cousin at Bruce’s Bar in Severance. Bruce’s is known for its “oysters,” and their sampler platter included buffalo, beef, and lamb oysters, cut in strips, breaded and deep-fried. They are all served with cocktail sauce.

Paddy and I are adventurous eaters, and they didn’t look that intimidating, so we dove right in.

Rocky Mountain oysters at Bruce's Bar in Severance, CO: Buffalo, lamb, and beef
Rocky Mountain oysters at Bruce’s Bar in Severance, CO: Buffalo, lamb, and beef
Rocky Mountain oysters at Bruce's Bar in Severance, CO
Rocky Mountain oysters at Bruce’s Bar in Severance, CO

The lamb oysters were our favorite. I didn’t try the beef ones because I don’t like beef, but Paddy said those were his least favorite as they were a bit tough. I liked the lamb ones. They kind of tasted like chicken nuggets.

 

On Sunday Paddy, my Mom, and I took a drive up to Estes Park in hopes of visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Stanley Hotel. It was a really pretty drive into the Rocky Mountains, and only an hour long road trip to get to Estes Park from Fort Collins.

Road to Estes Park in the Rocky Mountains
Road to Estes Park in the Rocky Mountains

We were hungry when we arrived in Estes Park, so we had lunch at a mediocre Mexican restaurant off the highway and then headed to the Stanley Hotel.

The Stanley Hotel gets its fame by being the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining in 1977. He and his wife stayed there for a night in room 217. They were the only guests at the hotel that night, as the hotel was getting ready to close for the season. Contrary to popular belief, The Shining was not actually filmed at The Stanley Hotel. The exterior aerial shots of the Overlook Hotel in the movie are actually of the Timberline Lodge at Mt Hood, Oregon. The hotel interior shots in the film were a set.

However, the Stanley Hotel was a creepy inspiration to Stephen King, and is rumored to be haunted. You can request the Stephen King suite (room 217) or a “haunted room” if you wish, but the haunted rooms book up fast. Tours of the hotel also book up in advance, as we learned when we arrived.

We were able to walk around the lobby and peek into some of the event rooms on the main floor, and there were some more historical exhibits downstairs. There is a gift shop with souvenirs from The Shining if you feel so inclined. We now own a Redrum coffee mug.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado

It turned out that Labor Day weekend was the wrong weekend to try to go to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Traffic towards the park was bumper to bumper, so we decided to skip it. Before heading back to Fort Collins, we thought we might try to check out the downtown area of Estes Park. This was also a bad idea. There wasn’t one parking space left in town, and traffic was so bad it took us 20 minutes just to get back to the road. It’s a small town. Estes Park looked like a cute town to visit, but I would recommend visiting in the off-season.

rainbow severance co
Rainbow on Paddy’s birthday–good luck?

Sunday was also Paddy’s birthday, so later that evening my cousin took us to downtown Fort Collins to celebrate.

The first place we went was the oldest bar in Fort Collins, The Town Pump. Built in 1909, The Town Pump is small and cozy with a full bar and a good local beer selection (Fort Collins is all about craft beer). It was a good spot to start the night.

The Town Pump bar in Fort Collins
The Town Pump bar in Fort Collins
The Town Pump bar in Fort Collins
The Town Pump bar in Fort Collins

For dinner we headed down the block to The Crown Pub, an English style pub with good food. We shared the Prince Edward Island Mussels to start, and then Paddy had the New York Strip Steak and I had the Relleno Royale chicken burger. Everything was great including the service.

The Relleno Royale burger with a chicken breast at the Crown Pub in Fort Collins
The Relleno Royale burger with a chicken breast at the Crown Pub in Fort Collins
The New York Strip Steak at the Crown Pub in Fort Collins
The New York Strip Steak at the Crown Pub in Fort Collins

We ended the evening at the Trail Head Tavern on W Mountain Ave. My cousin told me it used to be a movie theater a long time ago, where our grandparents would go to the movies together. There is the remnants of an old theater box office to the left of the front door.

The Trail Head had cheap drinks, a college-y vibe (Fort Collins is a college town), and a casual atmosphere.

The Trailhead Tavern in Fort Collins
The Trailhead Tavern in Fort Collins

On Monday morning we had breakfast out at The Egg and I in Windsor near my cousin’s house. For a chain restaurant, the food was surprisingly good and had a lot of healthy options available in addition to classic favorites. I had the Hiker’s Benedict which was delicious.

We spent the rest of the day with my family.

Hiker's Benedict at The Egg and I in Windsor, Colorado
Hiker’s Benedict at The Egg and I in Windsor, Colorado

Day 4: 

On Tuesday morning, we hit the road at 7:00 AM to begin our road trip. Our first destination was Pagosa Springs, in the southern part of Colorado, which was about a 6 hour drive away.

It was a long day of driving, but it was a beautiful drive. As soon as we passed Denver, we began an ascent into the Rocky Mountains, heading south.

rocky-mountain-road-trip-colorado-11

rocky-mountain-road-trip-colorado-10

rocky-mountain-road-trip-colorado-13

rocky-mountain-road-trip-colorado-4

rocky-mountain-road-trip-colorado-2

After four hours, we were ready for a lunch stop. We stopped in the tiny town of Saguache at the Saguache 4th Street Diner and Bakery.

Saguache 4th Street Diner and Bakery
Saguache 4th Street Diner and Bakery
Saguache Colorado
Saguache main street, Colorado
Saguache 4th Street Diner and Bakery
Saguache 4th Street Diner and Bakery

The 4th Street Diner and Bakery was a great place to stop for lunch. Tiny and eclectic, with mis-matched tables and chairs and a wood stove for cold winter days, it was homey and welcoming. Paddy had a burger with organic beef and I had a chicken quesadilla. There were a lot of tempting pies in the case at the counter, but we decided to pass and get back on the road.

We made a final stop at Wolf Creek Pass to get a photo at the view point there. The elevation was 10,856 ft, and it made me so light-headed that I stumbled a bit getting out of the car. It was a gorgeous view.

Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado
Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado

We made it to Pagosa Springs around 3:00 PM and checked into the Healing Waters Resort and Spa. It wasn’t really a resort, more of a budget hotel with a hot springs pool, steam room and sauna. It was clean and comfortable, and while I’m sure their pool was nice we were actually staying there because it was an affordable option next to the main hot springs.

Healing Waters Resort and Spa, Pagosa Springs
Healing Waters Resort and Spa, Pagosa Springs

The small town of Pagosa Springs is centered around the developed hot springs resort on the river, with several hot springs pools at various temperatures. They are open until 11:00 PM daily, so we planned on spending the evening soaking our troubles away.

Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado

We walked through the town and poked about in a few shops. We eventually made it up the main street to Riff Raff Brewing, and decided to relax and sample the local beer.

Mural in Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Mural in Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Sampler at Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado: Skallywag English Pale, Ele Duende Green Chili, Stepchild American Red, and the Plebian Porter
Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

The beer at Riff Raff was tasty and diverse. I did a sampler with the English Pale, the El Duende Green Chili Ale, the Stepchild American Red, and the Plebian Porter. The El Duende was tasty but I expected a bit more green chili flavor. The Skallywag English Pale and the Plebian Porter were my two favorites. The Stepchild Red was a bit too hoppy for me, I’m not a huge fan of hoppy beers.

Pagosa Springs is at a fairly high elevation (just over 7,000 ft), (pretty high-especially for us sea-level dwellers). Alcohol effects everyone a bit more at high elevations, and after the beer sampler I was quite buzzed. We stayed for dinner, and the food was excellent. Paddy tried the yak burger, which he really enjoyed. Riff Raff makes their own pickles, which were delicious.

Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Smokey the Chicken Burger at Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Yakkity-Yak Burger at Riff Raff Brewing Company, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

After dinner, we were ready for the hot springs. It was $30 per person for admittance, which was a little expensive but included a towel and a locker. They have an adults-only terrace with drink service which was very tempting but would have been $23 extra dollars each just to be able to use it. We couldn’t justify that kind of price. I tried to bargain with the guy at the counter, it being a Tuesday evening and all, but no dice.

The hot springs had a large pool (mostly used by children and families), and a series of small pools at a range of different temperatures from 92 to 111 degrees Fahrenheit. We found that we were most comfortable between 90 to 100 degrees. I tried to go in the Paradise pool at 109 degrees, but it was so painfully hot that I didn’t get past ankle deep.

Our favorite pools were Boulder, Aspen, and Serendipity. Serendipity had a waterfall and a good overlook for the river and the rest of the resort. The waterfall was a good shoulder massage. The adults only terrace didn’t seem like such a big deal, as all the kids seemed to be in the big pool and not the regular hot spring tubs. We were glad we hadn’t shelled out an extra $46.00.

Pagosa Hot Springs Colorado road trip
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado

There was a Canteen in the center of the pool complex where you could buy drinks and snacks, including beer and wine. We only got one drink each, we figured that high elevation and hot springs and alcohol probably weren’t a great combo. Drinks weren’t too overpriced.

We stayed and soaked our sore muscles until the stars came out.

 

Day 5: 

Aside from hot springs, we picked Pagosa Springs as a first night stop on our road trip because it was close to Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde National Park is located in the southwest corner of Colorado, and contains over 5,000 archeological sites and 600 ancient cliff dwellings. Only a few are open to the public. A couple cliff dwellings can be toured with a ranger guide.

We stopped by the ranger station when we arrived, and considered signing up for a ranger-guided tour of the Cliff Palace, but since we only had the morning to tour the park we opted to just do a drive and view tour at our own pace.

The road into the park ascends dramatically, offering beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. There were several viewpoint areas to pull over at.

*Note: The drive down to the cliff dwellings and pit house sites is 45 minutes from the park entrance one way, so allow at least half a day to see the park.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

We stopped at the remains of some early Anasazi pit houses along the Mesa View Loop road, a few dating back to 600 AD. The houses were dug into the ground, and then walls and a roof built up from the dugout with sticks and mud.

Mesa Verde National Park pit houses
Mesa Verde National Park pit houses
Mesa Verde National Park pit houses
Mesa Verde National Park pit houses
Mesa Verde National Park pit houses
Mesa Verde National Park pit houses
Mesa Verde National Park pit houses
Mesa Verde National Park pit houses
Mesa Verde National Park pit houses
Mesa Verde National Park pit houses

At the end of the park are several cliff dwellings to view. Cliff Palace was the most spectacular one that we saw, and you can get a really great view of Cliff Palace from above on the Cliff Palace Loop Road.

Note that if you decide to tour Cliff Palace, Balcony House, or other open dwellings in the park, they do involve climbing stairs, steep trails, and ladders. Cliff Palace sounded like it was the least strenuous, but all of them are at high elevation. Higher elevations make exercise and hiking a lot more strenuous, so if you have a heart condition or any type of physical disability, you may want to skip the tours.

Canyon where cliff dwellings are located, Mesa Verde National Park
Canyon where cliff dwellings are located, Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park

It is amazing to imagine these dwellings alive and full of the daily activity of the Anasazi people. Tiny cities tucked into the steep cliffs in the canyon. I wonder if there were more cliff trails along the canyon between the dwellings back in 1300 AD, it doesn’t look easy to access them currently. I’m sure there has been some significant erosion since they were populated.

After checking out the Cliff Dwellings, it was 1:00 PM and we were starving. Mesa Verde has two cafeteria-style restaurants, one at Far View Terrace closer to the entrance, and one at Spruce Tree Terrace closer to the cliff dwellings. Prices were reasonable, with many Southwest-style options. Paddy ordered the Navajo Taco, which was huge. It was a dinner-plate sized Navajo fry bread with chili and all your standard American taco fixings. He said it was really good, but didn’t quite make it through the whole thing. I had the black bean burger and fries which was also good.

Navajo taco at the Spruce Tree Terrace restaurant in Mesa Verde National Park
Navajo taco at the Spruce Tree Terrace restaurant in Mesa Verde National Park

The high elevation (and the big lunch) made us pretty tired, and we still had a couple hours to drive to our next destination, Monument Valley.

On the way to Monument Valley as we crossed from Colorado into Arizona, and we passed the Four Corners monument. We figured we should stop and do the obligatory photo op of us standing in four states at one time (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico).

The Four Corners Monument is part of the Navajo Nation, and requires an entrance fee of $5 per person. Unfortunately, it is out in the middle of nowhere and requires cash payment, no credit or debit cards. We only had $8 cash, so we moved on. If you want to see the four corners, be sure to have cash on hand to cover your group. If you need an ATM, there is one at the Teec Nos Pos trading post store and gas station is about a 10 minute drive away. They also have restrooms.

An hour and a half later, we finally approached Monument Valley. The first time I visited Monument Valley was on my road trip with my friend in March 2004, and I had been so excited to see it. We just did a drive through and unfortunately, there was a dust storm that day. The iconic wild-west views of red buttes were something I had always wanted to go back and experience again, in better weather and with more time.

We had a reservation at The View Hotel in Monument Valley tribal park, which ended up being worth every penny of the high $250/night price tag. It was our one big hotel splurge of the trip.

*Note: The View Hotel is inside the Navajo Tribal park and requires a $20 entrance fee per vehicle for up to two days. This isn’t included in the price of the room.

The View Hotel Monument Valley
The View Hotel Monument Valley
The View Hotel Monument Valley
The View Hotel Monument Valley

The View Hotel is aptly named, as every room has a balcony and a panoramic view of the iconic “Mittens,” The two buttes in the valley that look like right and left hand mittens. It was a stunning view, and my number one plan was to drink some wine on the balcony ad watch the sunset all evening.

*Note about wine/alcohol: The Navajo Nation does not permit the sale of alcohol, so no alcohol can be bought anywhere near or at the hotel. There isn’t a rule against bringing your own and drinking it in your room, however. If you plan on having adult beverages and enjoying the sunset like we did, be sure to stock up beforehand and bring your own. Each room is equipped with a fridge.

The View Hotel Monument Valley
The View Hotel Monument Valley
The View Hotel Monument Valley
The View Hotel Monument Valley
The View Hotel Monument Valley
The View Hotel Monument Valley

The View Hotel has a restaurant, with halfway decent prices and solidly mediocre food. The food isn’t bad, but it’s on par with good cafeteria food. That being said, it is convenient and the view from the restaurant is stunning. If you want to come here just for dinner and are staying elsewhere, be aware that the restaurant only serves hotel guests after 7:00 PM.

The View Hotel restaurant, Monument Valley
The View Hotel restaurant, Monument Valley
The View Hotel restaurant, Monument Valley
The View Hotel restaurant, Monument Valley

We decided to share the Navajo Sampler platter and the fried chicken dinner. The Navajo Sampler platter actually has enough food for two people, and we ended up with leftovers (good thing our room had a fridge). The sampler consisted of Green Chili Stew (be warned, it’s spicy), Red Chili Posole, Sheep Camp Mutton Stew, a mini Navajo fry bread taco, and Navajo fry bread with honey.

We highly recommend getting the Navajo tea, it was delicious. They also sell it in the gift shop.

The Navajo sampler platter: Green Chili Stew, Red Chili Pork Posole, Sheep Camp Mutton Stew
The Navajo sampler platter: Green Chili Stew, Red Chili Pork Posole, Sheep Camp Mutton Stew
Fried chicken dinner at The View Hotel restaurant
Fried chicken dinner at The View Hotel restaurant
The Navajo sampler platter: Green Chili Stew, Red Chili Pork Posole, Sheep Camp Mutton Stew, mini Navajo Taco, and Navajo fry bread with honey
The Navajo sampler platter: Green Chili Stew, Red Chili Pork Posole, Sheep Camp Mutton Stew, mini Navajo Taco, and Navajo fry bread with honey

After dinner, it was sunset and wine time. It was everything I’d hoped it would be. The View Hotel faces east, so while you can’t see the sun going down over the buttes, the sunlight from the setting sun in the west illuminates the buttes in a gorgeous red-orange light. The photos I took can’t do it justice.

The View Hotel, Monument Valley
The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Sunset from The View Hotel Monument Valley
Sunset from The View Hotel Monument Valley
Sunset from The View Hotel Monument Valley
Sunset from The View Hotel Monument Valley
Sunset from The View Hotel Monument Valley
Sunset from The View Hotel Monument Valley
Sunset from The View Hotel Monument Valley
Sunset from The View Hotel Monument Valley

Once it was dark, the hotel showed an outdoor John Wayne movie outside the restaurant, projected onto the wall of the building.

The View Hotel Monument Valley
The View Hotel Monument Valley–outdoor John Wayne movie

We didn’t stay up late enough to watch the stars come out, but I did wake up in the middle of the night and went outside and looked at them. It was a  surreal glitter display over the dark shadows of the buttes.

We did set our alarms for the sunrise, however. Trust me, it’s worth it.

 

Day 6:

Sunrise over Monument Valley, seen from the balcony in our room:

Sunrise from The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Sunrise from The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Sunrise from The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Sunrise from The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Sunrise from The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Sunrise from The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Sunrise from The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Sunrise from The View Hotel, Monument Valley

Monument Valley was the highlight of our entire road trip. We were sad to leave and wished we’d had another day to go on the slow dirt-road drive through the valley or go on a guided tour with a Navajo guide. I think we’ll be back though. It is a truly magical place.

We had breakfast a 10 minute drive away at Goulding’s Stagecoach. The breakfast there was outstanding, we both had their signature dish of Navajo fry bread huevos rancheros with green chili. We recommend skipping the View Hotel breakfast and coming here. Had we stayed a second night, we would have come back to Goulding’s for dinner as well.

Navajo fry bread huevos rancheros at Goulding's Stagecoach in Monument Valley
Navajo fry bread huevos rancheros at Goulding’s Stagecoach in Monument Valley
Navajo fry bread huevos rancheros at Goulding's Stagecoach in Monument Valley
Navajo fry bread huevos rancheros at Goulding’s Stagecoach in Monument Valley

After breakfast we drove around for a little bit to get some photos, and stopped at a Navajo handicraft stand to buy some souvenirs. We wanted to buy directly from the local Navajo people instead of the hotel gift shop.

The best roadside photos of the Valley are taken on the Utah side facing south. There are many pull-outs along the highway 163 to top and take a picture from.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley
Monument Valley
Monument Valley–classic view

Our next destination was Moab, where we planned on staying for two nights. The drive was only 2.5 hours and fairly scenic. On the way into town we passed Church Rock and Wilson Arch.

Church Rock, Utah road trip
Church Rock, Utah
Wilson Arch outside Moab, Utah
Wilson Arch outside Moab, Utah

We checked into the Inca Inn, a budget hotel that prides itself on “budget done right.” I’d have to say that we agree. The rooms are small but very clean, beds comfy, the towels weren’t sandpaper, there was a minimal complimentary continental breakfast and Starbucks coffee provided, and a small swimming pool. In addition, they care about the environment. The roof was lined with solar panels and there were prominent recycling bins in the parking lot. Rooms also include fridges and microwaves.

inca-inn-moab-utah-1

The Inca Inn, Moab Utah
The Inca Inn, Moab Utah
The Inca Inn, Moab Utah
The Inca Inn, Moab Utah

The bonus we discovered in our room the following morning: Disco shower.

Color-changing disco shower head at the Inca Inn in Moab Utah
Color-changing disco shower head at the Inca Inn in Moab Utah

We checked into the hotel and then walked around town a bit. Moab was HOT. It was in the 90’s, and although it was a dry heat the sun beat down on us.

Moab is a liberal, youthful outdoor adventure town. It is situated on the Colorado River and in very close proximity to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The area is very popular with rock climbers and river rafters, and is very busy in the summer. Be sure to make your hotel reservations in advance for the summer season.

Around 4:30 we took an air-conditioned drive through Arches National Park. Arches was my favorite National Park that my friend and I visited on our road trip in 2004, and I’d always wanted to go back. There are some pretty cool day hikes in the park, but if you want to hike in the summer I would recommend going at dawn when it is not so hot and the crowds are less. Take lots of water with you.

Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
“Organ Pipes,” Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah

The rock formations in Arches National Park are like no other I’ve seen anywhere else. The natural sandstone formations are created from wind and rain soil erosion. The park is home to the largest amount of natural rock arches in the world. Read more about how they are formed here.

Evening is a good time to drive through the park, as the low sun sets the red sandstone ablaze with orange light, creating some dramatic photo opportunities.

The most famous arch in the park is the Delicate Arch. You can see it from walking a very short trail from the parking lot, but it is pretty far away. To reach the arch, you have to hike a three mile round trip trail up the sandstone rock ledge, which can be a fairly strenuous hike–especially in high heat. We opted to just get a photo from the view point with a zoom lens and call it good.

delicate arch, Arches National Park
Delicate Arch seen from the lower view point
delicate arch, Arches National Park
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

If you just want to drive through the park and check out the viewpoints, allow about two hours or so. Allow a half day if you want to get out and do some short hikes. Take lots of water with you and wear sunscreen.

Firey Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah
Firey Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah

When we arrived back at our hotel, we were starving. The hotel front desk guy had recommended La Hacienda Mexican restaurant right next door, so we checked it out. It was very good. Great atmosphere, nice booths, and an extensive margarita menu. The sweet barbacoa pork is highly recommended.

La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Moab
La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Moab
Burrito at La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Moab
Barbacoa pork burrito at La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Moab
Seared ahi tacos at La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Moab
Seared ahi tacos at La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Moab

 

Day 7:

Friday was our only day with no driving to a different location, so we took it easy. We started the day with some sight seeing in Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands has two main entrances, Island in the Sky and Needles. Island in the Sky is about 30 minutes north of Moab, and Needles is about an hour south of Moab and then another 45 minutes northwest. We opted to just go to the Island in the Sky portion of the park.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah

There are many overlooks from the “Island,” as well as several hiking trails. We did the extremely short and extremely popular half mile round-trip hike to Mesa Arch. It is an easy hike with stunning views. You’ll have to take your turn for photos at the arch, unless you want to get there really early.

Mesa Arch hike, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Mesa Arch hike, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Mesa Arch hike, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Mesa Arch hike, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Mesa Arch hike, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Mesa Arch hike, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Mesa Arch hike, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Mesa Arch hike, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

We checked out some more overlooks, and then headed back to Moab. Overall including the short Mesa Arch hike we spent about three hours there. If you have more time, you can also check out Dead Horse Point State Park on the way in or out of Island in the Sky. We opted to skip it on this trip, but I went with my friend in 2004 and it does have nice views.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Back in Moab, we ate lunch at the Moab Brewery on the south side of the main drag through town. Their beers were a little hoppy for my taste, but the salads and chicken wings were excellent. We also tried a cup each of their beer and cheese soup, but it was a lot more like cheese fondue than soup. Skip the beer cheese soup.

Moab Brewery
Moab Brewery

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing back at the hotel and enjoying our day of not driving. The pool didn’t have umbrellas, but at around 3:30 there was enough shade in the corner of the pool area for me to sit and enjoy myself without feeling like I was in an oven. The water was refreshing.

Relaxing by the pool at the Inca Inn
Relaxing by the pool at the Inca Inn

That evening we went for dinner at the Sunset Grill. The main reason to eat at the Sunset Grill is the view. Perched high on the cliff overlooking the north part of town, The Sunset Grill is the former home of Charlie Steen, who came to Moab in the 1950’s in search of uranium and struck it rich.

View from Sunset Grill, Moab, Utah
View from Sunset Grill, Moab, Utah
View from Sunset Grill, Moab, Utah
View from Sunset Grill, Moab, Utah

The food was decent, and the service was great. It was a bit of a splurge dinner as entrees run around $25-$32 each, but they come with a choice of soup or salad and fresh baked bread or cornbread muffins. We just had an entree each and it was more than enough food. I wouldn’t come back here just for the food, but the view and good service made the experience one we would definitely recommend.

New York Strip Steak at The Sunset Grill, Moab, Utah
New York Strip Steak at The Sunset Grill, Moab, Utah
Raspberry duck at The Sunset Grill, Moab, Utah
Raspberry duck at The Sunset Grill, Moab, Utah

 

Day 8: 

Saturday was the last day of our road trip and we had a long 6 hour drive back to Denver. We got an early morning start at 7:00 AM, and took a detour to Woody Creek for lunch.

Woody Creek is a small town near Aspen, Colorado and the home of of the late writer Hunter S Thompson. Paddy is a huge Thompson fan, and so we had to go check it out.

Hunter S Thompson had a large property called Owl Farm in Woody Creek, but we didn’t know exactly where it was. Google Maps led us down Owl Creek Road in Aspen but all we found was some nice farm scenery.

Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, Colorado

After touring the Aspen countryside, we went for lunch at Hunter’s favorite watering hole, the Woody Creek Tavern. We got there pretty soon after it opened and Hunter’s favorite corner table was available. Paddy was stoked.

Hunter's favorite table at the Woody Creek Tavern, Colorado
Hunter’s favorite table at the Woody Creek Tavern, Colorado
Woody Creek Tavern, Colorado
Woody Creek Tavern, Colorado
Woody Creek Tavern, Colorado
Woody Creek Tavern, Colorado

The food was good and the people were friendly. It seemed to be a popular lunch spot for bicycle tourists in the area.

Ralph Steadman doodle of Hunter S Thompson on the wall at Woody Creek Tavern
Ralph Steadman doodle of Hunter S Thompson on the wall at Woody Creek Tavern

After lunch, we drove the last  three and a half hours to Denver, where we were staying our last night with our friends Sean and Lillian at their apartment.

We didn’t have a whole lot of time in Denver, just enough time to get some dinner and go out for a few drinks. Sean and Lillian took us to Ace Eat Serve, an Asian fusion restaurant with house-made sodas and a room full of ping pong tables.

Ace Eat Serve restaurant in Denver, Colorado
Ace Eat Serve restaurant in Denver, Colorado

We shared the shumai and the kimchi fritters to start, which were delicious. I had the Shoyu Ramen and Paddy had the Bulgogi (Korean dish with marinated ribeye steak and kimchi). Everything was fantastic and flavorful and pretty reasonably priced. The cocktails were expensive, but that’s to be expected. They make all their own kimchi and pickles in house, and they were outstanding. I couldn’t stop picking the radish kimchi off of Paddy’s plate.

Ace Eat Serve restaurant in Denver, Colorado
Ace Eat Serve restaurant in Denver, Colorado
Ace Eat Serve restaurant in Denver, Colorado
Shoyu Ramen at Ace Eat Serve restaurant in Denver, Colorado

After dinner we walked over to Colfax Avenue, a main drag in Denver with ample nightlife. Lillian and Sean took us to the Nob Hill Inn bar for more drinks. Nob Hill has been a Denver institution since 1954, and the furniture and decor don’t look like it has changed much since then. Drinks were cheap. I think if we lived in Denver it would be a favorite spot of ours.

We ended our (not so late) evening at Charlies, a gay cowboy bar with line dancing lessons. We figured we should give line dancing a shot. It was a $5.00 cover, and the evening was young so it was not very crowded yet. A very nice and very patient line dancing instructor invited newbies in to learn the basic “Freeze,” which he said is similar to the Electric Slide disco dance of the 70’s. It kind of reminded me of basic aerobics to country music. We weren’t the most coordinated people in the group, but it was fun. Afterward the dance instructor came over to our table and gave us free drink coupons. Bonus!

Line dancing at Charlie's bar in Denver
Line dancing at Charlie’s bar in Denver
At Charlie's Cowboy Bar in Denver
At Charlie’s Cowboy Bar in Denver
Cowboy boots disco ball at Charlies in Denver
Cowboy boots disco ball at Charlies in Denver

They did some more advanced dances afterward and we were impressed with the quick-stepping talent on the floor. It looked like a lot of fun. I’d try it again.

 

Our road trip around Colorado and Utah was quick and pretty fast-paced, but it was fun. I wished we’d had more time at each place we visited. I really want to go back to Monument Valley again and spend some more time there exploring the Valley. Colorado and Utah are very different and very beautiful states, each with a lot of different things to offer. We’d love to spend more time in Denver as well.

 

The Weird Things We Saw in Nevada

Weird things we saw in Nevada: Kitsch and Americana in the desert

 

There is a lot of weird stuff in Nevada. If a foreigner were to ask me what part of the United States to travel to where they could see the most unique Americana, I’d tell them to take a road trip around Nevada. Nevada is a desolate state, with pockets of decadence and extravagance (I.E. Reno and Las Vegas), loose laws and high security prisons, believers in alien life and leftover ghosts of Gold Rush days’ past. There are stretches of highway that go on for miles in between towns, which kept us nervously filling up our gas tank whenever it was only half full–just in case the next road was too long. It’s a state that will have you saying “what the fuck” at least once a day, but that’s the beauty of it. Here are the top weird things we saw in Nevada on our road trip in 2011:

 1. A sign telling us to report shooting from the highway

Shortly after leaving the small town of Ely, Nevada, heading south on Highway 50, we passed a sign with an 800 number telling us to report any shooting from the highway. Because apparently, people driving around in their cars shooting rifles at wildlife (and who knows what else) is a common enough phenomenon in that part of rural Nevada that there is a hotline to report it. Sorry, we didn’t get a photo. We also passed a high security prison and a sign telling us not to pick up hitchhikers. Noted.

weird things in Nevada

2. The Neon Boneyard

The Neon Boneyard is hands-down the coolest thing we’ve ever seen in Las Vegas. It is part of a small museum of Las Vegas past, with a fenced-in corral across the street where all the old neon signs of Vegas go to die. Reservations for tours are usually required, so plan ahead. Don’t miss it.

Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
“Vegas Vic,” Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas

3. The Mermaid Lounge

The second coolest thing I’ve seen in Las Vegas is the Mermaid Lounge at the Silverton Casino. The waitresses dress in mermaid-inspired attire, there is a live jellyfish tank filled with moon jellies over the bar, and a giant floor to ceiling tropical fish aquarium next to the bar. The best part? They do live mermaid shows in the aquarium several times a day. The Silverton Casino is a little bit out of the way from the strip, but an easy cab ride. It’s more of a local casino.

weird things in Nevada Mermaid Lounge Las Vegas
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Mermaid Lounge in Las Vegas
weird things in Nevada Mermaid Lounge Las Vegas
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Mermaid Lounge in Las Vegas
weird things in Nevada Mermaid Lounge Las Vegas
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Mermaid Lounge in Las Vegas
weird things in Nevada Mermaid Lounge Las Vegas
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Mermaid Lounge in Las Vegas

4. The Peppermill Casino in Reno

We stayed two nights at the Peppermill Casino in Reno, and ate at their Oceano Restaurant. It is an extraordinary neon disaster of a luxury casino, with multiple restaurants, bars, slot machines, and game areas. There are several types of rooms–we went for the cheesy 80’s spa suite in the Peppermill tower with a two person hot tub and a giant four poster bed. If you really want to be a high roller, you can book their “safari adventure” or “Roman opulence” suites complete with a hot tub in the living room and themed decor.

The amount of neon inside the casino really is astounding, especially in the Oceano Restaurant. We had to eat there just because it had jellyfish lights. The food wasn’t anything special, but it was a neon aquatic catastrophe that had to be fully experienced. Even if you don’t stay here, it is worth stopping by to take it all in.

Weird things in Nevada: Peppermill Casino, Reno
Weird things in Nevada: Peppermill Casino, Reno
Weird things in Nevada: Peppermill Casino, Reno
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Peppermill Casino, Reno
Weird things in Nevada Oceano Restaurant in the Peppermill Casino, Reno
Oceano Restaurant in the Peppermill Casino, Reno
Weird things in Nevada Oceano Restaurant in the Peppermill Casino, Reno
Oceano Restaurant in the Peppermill Casino, Reno

5. The Shady Lady Ranch

We drove by a total of 6 brothels on our road trip around Nevada, and decided to pull over for a photo of this one. We were given notice of it’s location a mile beforehand from a hand-painted plywood sign on the side of the road in the highway. There is literally nothing around for miles.

It was a collection of travel trailers in the middle of nowhere. Classy.

Weird things in Nevada: The Shady Lady Ranch
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Shady Lady Ranch
Weird things in Nevada: The Shady Lady Ranch
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Shady Lady Ranch

6. Rhyolite Ghost Town sculpture park

We wanted to see Death Valley National Park, and there is an entrance from Nevada in the border town of Beatty. Just before the entrance to the park is the Rhyolite ghost town, which is pretty interesting. In addition to the ghost town, you get to tour a sculpture park. Some of the sculptures really fit with the theme (ghosts with bicycles), but others are just really random. Such as the giant nude lego-esque lady with a big blonde cube of pubic hair towering over the desert. It’s worth a looksie.

Weird things in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town
Weird things in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town
Weird things in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town
Weird things in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town
Weird things in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town
Weird things in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town
Weird things in Nevada: Rhyolite Ghost Town

 

7. The Clown Motel

On the way from Beatty to Reno through Tonopah, Nevada we stopped to take a photo at the Clown Motel. Rates were advertised at $34.50/night and the rooms are clown themed. We would have totally stayed there had it worked into our itinerary. The creepiness of a clown themed motel in the middle of the desert is pretty high, but adding to it is a very old wild west era graveyard full of the bones of gold miners right next door.

If you stay here, you might not want to watch the movie Poltergeist close to the time of your trip.

Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Clown Motel in Tonopah
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Clown Motel in Tonopah
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Clown Motel in Tonopah
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Clown Motel in Tonopah
Weird things we saw in Nevada: The Clown Motel (and goldminer grave yard) in Tonopah
Weird things in Nevada: The Clown Motel (and goldminer grave yard) in Tonopah

8. The Extraterrestrial Highway

One of the things we absolutely had to go out of our way to see was the Extraterrestrial Highway 375 that runs between Crystal Springs and Warm Springs. There is one tiny town called Rachel in the middle with an alien themed diner and hotel (The Little A’le-Inn). Don’t expect a gas station though, be sure to have a full tank when you start out.

The Extraterrestrial Highway is named for the reported UFO sightings in the area, which is also host to the mysterious super-secret Air Force test facility Area 51. I’m sure the UFO sightings are all related to the test facility….but what is the government doing out there, exactly? Don’t plan on finding out, there are signs around the property that state that the government has the right to shoot you if you enter their area.

In any event, it’s a sight to see.

weird things we saw in nevada Extraterrstrial highway

Weird things we saw in Nevada: Extraterrstrial Highway
Weird things in Nevada: Extraterrestrial Highway
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Extraterrstrial Highway
Weird things in Nevada: Extraterrestrial Highway
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Extraterrstrial Highway
Weird things in Nevada: Extraterrestrial Highway
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Extraterrstrial Highway
Weird things in Nevada: Extraterrestrial Highway
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Extraterrstrial Highway
Weird things we saw in Nevada: Extraterrestrial Highway

 

Our week-long road trip around Nevada was one of my favorite trips with Paddy. It wasn’t another country, but sometimes it felt like it. I’m always on the hunt for the unusual, and the weird things we saw in Nevada were some of the best I’ve encountered. Sometimes I wonder if the desert makes people go a little crazy. The arid climate, the heat, the monotonous landscape and roads that go on for miles in the dry emptiness. It was fun, but I can’t tell you how excited I was to see green fresh veggies and leafy green trees when we got back to the Pacific Northwest.

Read about all our adventures in Nevada here: http://childfreelifeadventures.com/nevada-road-trip-2011/

Halloween in New Orleans 2015

Halloween in New Orleans 2015: Spooky fun, awesome food, Frenchmen Street, Voodoo Musuem, Garden District, the French Quarter, and a vampire ball

 

Our first trip to New Orleans was ten years ago, in the spring before Hurricane Katrina. We stayed a week and fell head over heals in love with the city. We’d always dreamed of coming back for Halloween, and this year, we finally pulled the trigger and spent Halloween in New Orleans.

Halloween in New Orleans is probably second to Mardi Gras as far as a big city-wide event. It’s not just Halloween night, it is several nights of events and costumed revelry. There are masquerade balls, witches’ balls, vampire balls, parades, haunted history tours, and the annual Voodoo Fest music festival all at once. It is a bit overwhelming, and there isn’t a way to possibly do it all.

If you want to spend Halloween in New Orleans, I recommend planning ahead. Book your plane tickets and hotel early (9 months in advance is a good idea) and do some research to figure out which events are going on in your time frame an what is most important. If tickets are required, purchase early.

Also, bring at least two costumes. New Orleans is serious about costumes, so bring some good ones.

 

Day 1:

Our flight from Seattle arrived into humid New Orleans at 5:30, and getting a taxi to our hotel was a breeze. The taxi line was long, but it moved quickly. There is a mandated flat rate for all taxi fares for two passengers of $36.00 for most parts of New Orleans. The rate increases $15 per extra passenger after that.

We arrived at the Frenchmen 519 condos, where we had booked a two bedroom condo to share with our friend Keith from New York. The location couldn’t have been better–right on Frenchmen Street and in walking distance to everything in the French Quarter. The condo was spacious, had AC, and the beds were comfortable. The front desk is open 24 hours and the desk agent was extremely nice. There is an outside gate with a pass code as well for security. We found the best rate on Booking.com at $250/night.

Frenchmen 519 condo on Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen 519 condo on Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen 519 condo on Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen 519 condo on Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen 519 condo on Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen 519 condo on Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen-519-Halloween-in-New-Orleans 217
Frenchmen 519 condo on Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen 519 condo on Frenchmen Street

There was also a pool and hot tub in the back courtyard, but we never had time to use it.

We had three other friends who flew down with us staying a few blocks away at the Lamothe House hotel on Esplanade, which they were very happy with as well.

Our front desk clerk recommended Coop’s Place for dinner, only a few blocks away on Decatur Street. We didn’t have to wait long for a table for 5, but a long line began building after we were seated. I walked by this restaurant a few times during our stay and there was usually a big line for dinner. The menu is a smorgasbord of Cajun/Creole fare and the prices are reasonable.

Paddy and I couldn’t decide, so we both went with the sampler platter which had fried chicken, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice with okra, and a cup of gumbo. It was a good sampling of New Orleans cooking, and the fried chicken was excellent.

Fried chicken at Coops Place Hallowen in New Orleans
Fried chicken platter at Coops Place
Sampler platter at Coops Place Halloween in New Orleans
Sampler platter at Coops Place

After dinner, we walked down Decatur Street and poked around in the little shops that were still open. Then we turned up towards Bourbon Street.

The first time you see Bourbon Street, it’s kind of exciting. Lots of neon, lots of people, live music pouring out of every bar up and of course the Huge Ass Beers guy selling beers to go.

Bourbon Street Halloween in New Orleans
Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street Halloween in New Orleans
Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street Halloween in New Orleans

Bourbon Street Halloween in New Orleans
Bourbon Street

For most people in the US coming from states with strict liquor laws, being able to get a beer in a to-go cup and walk around is a novelty in itself. When we first came to New Orleans, we didn’t know much about the city and spent most of our nights on Bourbon.

This time, all we saw was tourists. Tourists on balconies trying to get other tourists to show their boobs for beads (wrong holiday, guys), tourists doing bad karaoke, drunk bachelor parties, and most of the music we heard blaring out of the bars were cover bands doing covers of classic rock songs. Our friends hadn’t been to New Orleans before, so we did a thorough walk up and down Bourbon to get a taste, but everyone was over it pretty quickly.

We headed back towards Frenchmen Street on Bourbon, past the very well-decorated gay bars to our favorite bar from our last visit, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.

Bourbon Street Halloween in New Orleans
Gay bars on Bourbon Street had the best Halloween decorations
Bourbon Street Halloween in New Orleans
Bourbon Street
Lafittes Blacksmith Shop Halloween in New Orleans
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is reportedly the oldest building used as a bar in the US, dating back to 1722. It is dark, using mostly candles as light. The decor is minimal with only old wooden tables and a piano player in the back. The only electric lights are over the bar and over the piano music. There is also a nice outdoor courtyard. We were extremely disappointed this time to see that a digital juke box with neon lights had been added to the wall across from the bar. It’s music competed with the piano player in the back and the neon light was a major eyesore in a dark, historical, candlelit bar.

We still had a good time, and were early enough to get table service. I recommend the local Abita Blackened Voodoo beer or Dixie for something lighter.

Laffites Blacksmith Shop
Lafittes Blacksmith Shop piano player
Lafittes Blacksmith Shop Halloween in New Orleans
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Lafittes Blacksmith Shop Halloween in New Orleans
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

Our friend Keith from New York finally arrived at our condo back on Frenchmen Street, so we headed back there to see what was going on. We met up with Keith and spent some time watching the jazz band on the street corner playing for tips. The crowd was growing, people were dancing, and some dude was walking around selling beers out of a cooler duct-taped to a hand truck. It was a refreshing change from the adult Disneyland that is Bourbon Street.

Frenchemen Street Halloween in New Orleans
Frenchmen Street

After a little while we were in need of more beers, but our entrepreneur with the hand truck cooler was lost among the crowd. We headed over to Dat Dog for drinks and ended up staying for the best hot dogs we’ve ever had. I had the crawfish etouffee dog which was crawfish sausage covered in creole mustard, tarter sauce, relish, tomatoes, and onions. Paddy had the Guinness special which was a Guinness sausage with yellow mustard, bacon, onions, and I’m not sure what else. He said it was amazing.

Also on the menu was duck sausage, alligator sausage, vegan sausage, turducken sausage, Polish sausage, German bratwurst, chili cheese fries, and crawfish etouffee fries, among other items. It was ridiculously good.

Dat Dog Halloween in New Orleans
Dat Dog–we embraced our sausagey bliss.
Dat Dog Halloween in New Orleans
Dat Dog
Dat Dog Halloween in New Orleans
Dat Dog Guinness Special
Dat Dog Halloween in New Orleans
Dat Dog Crawfish Etouffee Dog

Halloween-in-New-Orleans 318

After our late-night munchies were satisfied, most of us turned in for the night. Paddy went across the street to watch a jazz band for awhile.

 

Day 2:

Thursday we slept in a bit, and then Paddy, Keith, and I headed for brunch at the New Orleans Cake Cafe. Located further into the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, it is a little local hidden gem.

New Orleans Cake Cafe Halloween in New Orleans
New Orleans Cake Cafe

It is seat-yourself and order at the counter, and the food is delicious. We weren’t in the mood for sweets but the baked goods in the counter display case looked amazing. Paddy and Keith both had the boudin and eggs, which was a fried cake of boudin sausage, grits, eggs, and a buttery home-baked biscuit. I had the crab sandwich, which had crab, bacon, and brie on challah bread.

Boudin and eggs at New Orleans Cake Cafe
Boudin sausage, eggs, grits, and a biscuit at New Orleans Cake Cafe
Crab, brie, and bacon sandwich at New Orleans Cake Cafe
Crab, brie, and bacon sandwich at New Orleans Cake Cafe

After brunch we met up with our other friends to explore the French Quarter. We found a lot of interesting antique shops on Decatur Street, and a witchcraft store selling books, soaps, potions, oils, voodoo dolls, and other witchy items. The antiques in New Orleans are a lot older than in the stores we have been in back in Seattle. There are a lot of old turn of the century furniture and collectibles in New Orleans if you are looking for that sort of thing.

Decatur street antiques new orleans
Old rusty letters for sale at an antique store on Decatur Street
Decatur street antiques new orleans
Furniture at an antique store on Decatur street
French Quarter Halloween in New Orleans
French Quarter
Witchcraft store on Decatur Street Halloween in New Orleans
Witchcraft store on Decatur Street

We also explored the French Market, which reminded us a lot of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Lots of vendors selling art, jewelry, crafts, souvenirs, food, and produce. I didn’t take any photos in the French Market because a lot of art vendors had “no photos” signs at their booths and I didn’t want to be an asshole. So you’ll just have to see it for yourself.

After walking around for a few hours, we needed a little break, and Paddy needed to have some oysters. We walked into the glaring tourist trap French Market Cafe on Decatur and headed to the upstairs bar. It was mid afternoon and fairly empty. We all had some overpriced drinks (the “sex on the bayou” was refreshing), rested our feet, and Paddy and I shared a dozen oysters. We love oysters, but couldn’t get our squeamish friends to give them a go.

oysters at the French Market Cafe New Orleans
Paddy enjoying some raw oysters at the French Market Cafe

After we were rested up, we walked through the French Quarter some more and then checked out the Voodoo Museum.

French Quarter
French Quarter

The Voodoo Museum is small, and is a $5.00 entry. We were told we could take photos. It was really interesting to learn about the symbolism and history of voodoo.

Voodoo Museum
Shrine, Voodoo Museum
Voodoo Museum
Voodoo dolls, Voodoo Museum

After learning all about voodoo and hoodoo, we took a look at the famous LaLaurie Mansion nearby on Royal Street. It is where Madame Delphine LaLaurie resided in the early 1800’s. There are stories of her deplorable treatment of slaves in the mansion, including a mysterious death of a slave girl falling from the window of one of the upper floors. In 1834 a fire broke out in the mansion, and Madame LaLaurie reportedly ran out into the street in a frenzy asking bystanders to assist her with her saving her valuables. Firemen inquired about the slaves and Madame LaLaurie refused to give them the keys to the attic slave quarters. The fire was put out, but seven tortured and mutilated slaves were found chained in the attic when the firemen broke down the door. Madame LaLaurie was driven out of town and an angry mob destroyed everything in the mansion.

LaLaurie Mansion New Orleans Halloween
LaLaurie Mansion

Madame LaLaurie was featured as a character in the fictional TV show American Horror Story: Coven. The show was fictional, but the character and her horrific treatment of her slaves was based on real history.

We walked around the French Quarter a bit more, admiring the Halloween decorations. Locals really get into Halloween in New Orleans, and there were quite a few decorated houses and apartments.

Halloween in New Orleans
Halloween decorations in the French Quarter
Halloween in New Orleans
Halloween decorations in the French Quarter

Halloween in New Orleans

 

Halloween in New Orleans
Paddy and I in front of a beautiful New Orleans house on the edge of the French Quarter

Later, we all re-convened for dinner. I had made a reservation (definitely recommended for larger groups) at Sobou, a new and hip subsidiary of the long-standing New Orleans institution Commander’s Palace. The name Sobou is short for “south of Bourbon.”

The menu was more tapas style than big plates, meant to order small plates to share. The cuisine was modern New Orleans fare, and everything looked amazing. The meal started off great, with cocktails and a few small bites including a smokey gumbo with mashed potatoes instead of rice, ahi tuna cones with avocado ice cream, fried pork rinds with honey-whipped bacon fat and 24-hour smoked pork rillette.

Sobou New Orleans
Sobou
Sobou New Orleans
Sobou
Sobou New Orleans tuna cones
Tuna cones: Raw tuna with avocado basil ice cream
Sobou New Orleans
Gumbo with a scoop of mashed potatoes
Sobou New Orleans
Cocktails at Sobou: The Funnycide and the Rowdy Hawaiian

The meal went south after the first round. We ordered more food and drinks, and our waitress took our order and completely disappeared for half an hour. Finally we inquired about our food with the bartender who said he would check on it. A few minutes later another cup of gumbo was brought out without a spoon, with an explanation that our food was put in on separate tickets. We had to go back to the bartender to get a spoon. Waitress still nowhere in site. We inquired again a few minutes later and our drinks were brought by another server, who said he would check on the rest of our food. We waited a bit longer, and then some more dishes were brought but we were still missing two, and the second gumbo was also brought by a food runner without a spoon. We asked if the rest was coming and he said he would check, that (again) it must have all been put on separate tickets. Waitress still nowhere in site.

We’ve all worked in the service industry, and we’ve all had off-nights. However, this was a little ridiculous. Finally, news of our multiple inquiries with the bartender on our food (and spoons) reached a manager, who came over and apologized profusely, had some shots sent over to our table and made sure the rest of our food came out. She promised some complimentary dessert as well. Our waitress came back finally, looking very sheepish and apologized for the confusion. We received a complimentary round of the bananas foster on the half shell and the “pecan pie not pie” which was served in a jar with peanut butter whipped cream and a chocolate covered pork cracklin’. It was delicious.

Sobou babanas foster new orleans
Bananas foster on the half shell

When we received our bill, in addition to the complimentary dessert and shots, the manager comped the first round of appetizers. I’d chock the service issues up to a bad night for the waitress, and would definitely go back. All of the food was outstanding, and the manager made it right by taking some things off of our bill. A class act all the way. Paddy is still raving about the foie gras burger he had.

After dinner we walked back towards Frenchmen Street on Bourbon Street, which was rowdier than the night before and smelled of vomit and farts. It was only 9:30, but you still had to watch where you stepped to avoid random splatters of puke on the street. Aside from a stop for Paddy and Devin to get some cigars, we hurried through.

Bourbon Street New Orleans
Cigars on Bourbon. Photo by Cassandra Whelan

Back on Frenchmen Street, the same group of musicians were playing on the corner for tips again, and had drawn an even bigger crowd. We went up to the balcony of Dat Dog and watched from above with drinks.

Frenchmen Street New Orleans
Watching the jazz band below from Dat Dog on Frenchmen Street. Photo by Cassandra Whelan
Frenchmen Street New Orleans
Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen Street New Orleans
Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street New Orleans

Dat Dog might be an unassuming fluorescently-lit hot dog restaurant, but it is a great spot to get some drinks and watch the action.

While we were watching the jazz band, a man and his wife set up some folding tables and table-top BBQs on the opposite corner of the street and started grilling. After the band ended, we couldn’t resist checking out what they had going on.

The cook’s name was Steve and he had gone to college in Seattle, so when he found out we were from Seattle he made a big to-do about it and we all got our photos taken with him.

BBQ Frenchmen Street New Orleans
Steve’s BBQ
BBQ Frenchmen Street New Orleans
Steve’s BBQ

The BBQ platter was huge, so we got a couple to share. It was $20, and well worth it. It included a sausage, some corn on the cobb, amazing mac and cheese, jambalaya, a piece of chicken, and the best sauteed garlic bacon cabbage I’ve ever had. If you see this man on Frenchmen Street–drop your dinner plans and get his food.

BBQ Frenchmen Street New Orleans
Steve’s BBQ platter. Best $20 you’ll ever spend.

 

Day 3:

 

On Friday morning Cassandra and I were up and ready to go get beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde at 10:00 AM, but we were only able to get two of the guys out of bed to come with us.

The line was long, but moved fairly quickly. There was another line for to-go coffee and beignets around the back that moved a bit faster, but we wanted to sit down.

Cafe Du Monde New Orleans
Cafe Du Monde

It was worth the wait. There are only beignets and coffee on the menu, and it is cash only. The floor is covered in powdered sugar and the dining area is open-air.

Cafe Du Monde New Orleans
Cafe Du Monde cafe au lait and beignets

After beignets and cafe au lait with chicory, we walked across the street to Jackson Square and admired the St Louis Cathedral, and checked out the art being sold on the edges of the park by local artists.

St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square New Orleans
Jackson Square
St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square New Orleans
St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square

Walking back to our hotels we walked by a house decorated in various mutilated baby dolls.

We were able to rouse Paddy when we got back to the condo, but Keith was still sleeping off a late night. We took an uber over to the Garden District where we had a 1:15 PM brunch reservation at Atchafalaya. We were a bit early, so we went up to the bar to order some drinks. The poor harried bartender was obviously on the tail end of a very busy brunch rush and it took awhile to get our vodka on ice for the bloody mary bar, but we were patient.

Atchafalaya New Orleans
Atchafalaya restaurant—Brunch highly recommended!

Bloody mary bar? Yes–a bloody mary bar!! With standard bloody mary mix and a green tomato bloody mary mix. There was also an entire array of pickled veggies, hot sauces, pepper, and lime wedges to customize your bloody mary.

Atchafalaya bloody mary bar New Orleans
Atchafalaya bloody mary bar
Atchafalaya bloody mary bar New Orleans
Atchafalaya bloody mary bar

Everything on the menu looked delicious. I finally narrowed it down to the duck confit hash, and Paddy had the shrimp with cream cheese grits. This was probably my favorite meal our whole trip, and if you plan on going to the Garden District while in New Orleans, make a reservation here and get brunch. It’s the best.

Duck confit hash at Atchafalaya in the Garden District
Duck confit hash at Atchafalaya in the Garden District
Shrimp with cream cheese grits at Actchafalaya New Orleans
Shrimp with cream cheese grits at Actchafalaya
Chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy at Atchafalaya New Orleans
Chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy at Atchafalaya

After we were full of brunch, we waddled around the Garden District and admired the houses and Layfayette Cemetery.

I had heard that the reason people are buried in above-ground  tombs in New Orleans is due to New Orleans being below sea level, causing bodies buried below ground to rise back up in the event of a flood. According to the Lafayette Cemetery website, however, the tombs are primarily a cultural tradition from the French and Spanish colonists.

In any event, the tombs are beautiful and intriguing.

Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery
Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery
Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery
Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery
Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery
Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery
Halloween in New Orleans Layfayette Cemetery
Lafayette Cemetery

The Garden District neighborhood of New Orleans is home to some of the most spectacular old French/Spanish colonial southern houses. The last time we visited New Orleans, Paddy and I walked all over the Garden District looking at houses until we were dead tired. This time, we just did a short tour to check out Anne Rice’s former house (the house she used as the setting for her books about the Mayfair witches) and the houses nearby to the Rice house.

If you are really interested in Garden District houses, most guidebooks for New Orleans will have a self-guided walking tour in them that tells you about some of the most impressive houses and where to find them.

Anne Rice's house in the Garden District
Anne Rice’s house in the Garden District
Anne Rice's house in the Garden District
Anne Rice’s house in the Garden District
Anne Rice's house in the Garden District
Anne Rice’s house in the Garden District
Garden District New Orleans
Garden District

After we were tired of walking, we took an Uber back to Frenchmen Street to take a nap in our rooms.

Later that evening Keith, Paddy, and I ventured out in search of sustenance, and had a solidly mediocre meal at Frank’s on Decatur Street. The food was too bland to recommend, but the price, nearby location, and lack of a wait for a table were all what we were looking for.

On the way back to our condo we passed the dead baby house from earlier, now all lit up and with a host. A middle aged man in a diaper and a baby mask pretended to grind baby dolls up in a “meat grinder” that spit out candy. His cat sat on a chair next to the front steps looking bored.

Halloween-in-New-Orleans 390
Keith and the “man baby” at the dead baby house
Halloween-in-New-Orleans 386
Dead baby house

There were a lot more decorations out on Friday night, it was fun to walk around the French Quarter and see the houses and hotels all decorated for Halloween. Some were really elaborate.

Halloween in New Orleans
Halloween in New Orleans
Scary clown house Halloween in New Orleans
Scary clown house– Halloween in New Orleans
Scary clown house Halloween in New Orleans
Scary clown house– Halloween in New Orleans
scary clown house Halloween in New Orleans
Scary clown house– Halloween in New Orleans

The weather forecast for Halloween in New Orleans was grim–predicting rain and thunderstorms all day and night on Saturday and Sunday. Fortunately, Halloween in New Orleans is not just one night. We had brought multiple costumes for the weekend, and Friday night ended up being the most fun night of our trip.

Well planning our trip, we thought a group costume would be fun and we found some banana costumes for $25 each. Paddy was not enthusiastic about the idea, but we peer pressured him into it.

Halloween in New Orleans
Halloween in New Orleans. Bananas!

Keith had his nun costume on earlier, and decided to keep his holy cross on with the banana costume. Ba-nun-a.

Halloween in New Orleans
Ba-Nun-a

We had some beers at our condo, and then ventured out onto Frenchmen Street. We immediately got a lot of attention. Everywhere we went people were yelling “bananas!” Paddy had an attitude change when he saw how much attention we were getting. He has always been a bit of a ham.

There were a lot of other impressive costumes as well. I was particularly impressed with these two ladies dressed as peacocks:

Halloween in New Orleans
Peacocks– Halloween in New Orleans
Narwhal costuems Halloween in New Orleans
Narwhals– Halloween in New Orleans
Angler Fish costume halloween in New Orleans
Angler fish costume– Halloween in New Orleans
Halloween in New Orleans
Halloween in New Orleans –I don’t know what this couple’s costume is, but it is amazing.
Halloween in New Orleans Beetlejuice and Lydia
Best Beetlejuice and Lydia I’ve ever seen

We decided that we had to go back to Bourbon Street to parade around a bit more and see more costumes. We ended up posing in a lot of peoples’ photos.

Waldos and Bananas Halloween in New Orleans
We kept finding Waldo. Everywhere.
Dr-Frankenfurter-Halloween in New Orleans
Dr. Frankenfurter
Rocky Horror Halloween in New Orleans
Keith and Rocky exchanging pleasantries
Halloween in New Orleans
Roy Orbison in drag?

We came across one of the several Tropical Isle bars on Bourbon, and decided that we needed their famous Shark Attack drink that I saw on Zane Lamprey’s Drinking Made Easy. The Tropical Isle is famous for it’s New Orleans Hand Grenade drink, which you will see people walking around with everywhere in long green souvenir cups. This is not the best drink at the Tropical Isle. The Shark Attack is made with a slurry of booze and other sugary ingredients, but that’s not the attraction.

Tropical Isle Halloween in New Orleans
Tropical Isle on Bourbon Street
Shark attacks Tropical Isle Halloween in New Orleans
Making the Shark Attacks

The best part of the Shark Attack is that it comes with a plastic shark that has grenadine poured in its mouth, overturned into the drink and therefore spilling “blood” into the water. Our bartender also threw in a little plastic alligator for good measure.

Drinks that come with a plastic shark overturned in them? What more could you want. Go to the Tropical Isle. Skip the Hand Grenade. Get the Shark Attack.

Shark attacks Tropical Isle Halloween in New Orleans
Shark Attacks at the Tropical Isle
Shark attacks Tropical Isle Halloween in New Orleans
Shark attacks at the Tropical Isle

Upstairs at the Tropical Isle we found a good balcony view of Bourbon Street, and a photo op.

Tropical Isle Halloween in New Orleans
Tropical Isle
Halloween in New Orleans
Bourbon Street

 

Day 4:

 

The next morning our condo living area was strewn with banana costumes and rubber sharks. Keith was still sleeping, so Paddy and I headed out to get some brunch.

Halloween in New Orleans
The aftermath.

We walked over to Horn’s restaurant, which came highly recommended by a friend of ours. There was a wait, but you could put yourself on the self-sign in wait list at the door. It wasn’t too long before we got a nice booth, coffee, and mimosas.

Horns New Orleans
Horn’s restaurant

The menu was a touch choice, everything looked amazing. I went with my friend’s suggestion of the Jewish Coonass which was two potato latkes topped with two eggs, grilled spinach, crawfish etouffee, and a biscuit on the side. Paddy had the Eggs Dauphine with jalepeno corn bread, pulled pork, egg, and hollandaise sauce. Both were fabulous.

Horns New Orleans
Jewish Coonass at Horn’s
Horns New Orleans
Horns

After breakfast we did some souvenir shopping on Decatur Street and then went back to bed for awhile to rest up for Halloween night.

The late afternoon brought torrents of rain as promised, and New Orleans even had a tornado warning for awhile according to the news.

Every Halloween in New Orleans, there is a small parade on Decatur Street and back down Bourbon Street starting at Molly’s in the Market on Decatur. The parade is Jim Monaghan’s Halloween Parade, not to be confused with the big Halloween parade done by the Krewe of Boo. The big Halloween parade was the weekend prior to Halloween, which we missed. We decided to check out Jim Monaghan’s Halloween Parade, despite the rain.

The parade was scheduled to start at 6:00 PM, and we ended up standing under umbrellas with a bunch of other spectators near the start of the parade route until 7:00 PM when the parade finally started. I don’t know if the weather had something to do with it, but the parade was pretty much just some people in costumes walking down the street and riding in carriages. A few beads were thrown. It was over within 10 minutes, or at least it appeared to be. Seeing as how you can see people parading around in costumes all over Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street anyway, we kind of wished we’d skipped waiting in the rain. It was also dark, which made visibility difficult as well. I guess it literally rained on our parade.

Jim Monaghan's Halloween Parade
Jim Monaghan’s Halloween Parade
Jim Monaghan's Halloween Parade
Jim Monaghan’s Halloween Parade
Jim Monaghan's Halloween Parade
Jim Monaghan’s Halloween Parade

We were starving, so we headed back through the rain to Dat Dog for a quick dinner, then back to our condo to get in costume.

Paddy, Keith and I had tickets to the annual Endless Night Vampire Ball at the House of Blues. It is New Orleans, home of Anne Rice, and a vampire ball seemed appropriate. Because the weather was so bad, we were happy that we did our street-partying together with the group the night before, and had a dry indoor venue for tonight.

Our other friends came over to join us and have a few pre-funk drinks before going out. Keith went with a “Lone Ranger” style vampire costume, and Paddy and I went a bit more traditional. They both got some really creepy contact lenses. I was jealous–I need prescription so I couldn’t get them.

vampire ball Halloween in New Orleans
Keith, Whitney, and Paddy getting ready for the vampire ball

vampire ball Halloween in New Orleans

vampire ball Halloween in New Orleans
Getting ready for the vampire ball

The Vampire Ball was full of very serious costumes. They have a strict dress code–no street wear. I did see a few random costumes there as well, so they must not be super strict with the vampire dress code. I’d recommend putting a good vampire costume together, but it seemed like any well-done costume was sufficient. Each year has a different theme, and this year’s theme was Penny Dreadful (1800’s London horror). There were a lot of costumes that went with the theme, and many that didn’t. All of them were interesting.

Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball–this lady sewed her own dress! Amazing.
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Keith, our blood-sucking cowboy

The House of Blues is a huge venue, and in addition to the main stage, there was a side room with a small stage as well. A vampire belly dancer put on a burlesque performance on the side stage involving eating live worms and drinking blood. I don’t know if the blood was real, but the worms were. Ew.

Endless Night Vampire Ball

Endless Night Vampire Ball

On the main stage were several musical acts, an aerialist, and more vampire belly dancers, some with live snakes. It was all very entertaining.

Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball

Endless Night Vampire Ball

Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball
Endless Night Vampire Ball

Around midnight we decided to head back to Frenchmen Street to see how the Halloween party was going there. Unfortunately, our friends were tired from the night before and sick of walking around in the rain, so they went to bed early. The rain was a disappointment, Frenchmen Street was not nearly as packed with costumed revelers as in the photos I’d seen of previous Halloween in New Orleans.

We had a great time Friday night though, and the Vampire Ball was pretty spectacular. I’m glad we didn’t have only Halloween night to celebrate with the weather being so wet.

 

Day 5:

 

On Sunday we had to check out by 11:00 AM, but our flight wasn’t until 6:30 PM. We weren’t able to do a late checkout, but the 519 Frenchmen was happy to store our luggage for us for the day. While we were packing, my blood sugar was taking a steep dive, so I went down the street to Cafe Rose Nicaud for lattes and some delicious biscuit “sammies” to go. The rain was still pouring, and I was glad I’d brought an umbrella on this trip.

At 11:00 we met up with the rest of our friends and went to brunch at Horn’s again. The wait was longer for five of us, but we didn’t have anything better to do and there was a covered area outside the door to shelter us from the rain.

Paddy had the Waffle Couchon, which was a cornbread waffle topped with pulled pork, chimichurri sauce and pickled peppers. I had the Chicken and Waffle, which was a sweet potato waffle with fried chicken and BBQ sauce. I was a little disappointed with my chicken and waffle, I thought it needed some type of light gravy or something other than BBQ sauce, and the waffle was a little on the sweet side for me. Paddy was raving about his Waffle Couchon.

Waffle Couchon at Horns New Orleans
Waffle Couchon at Horns
Chicken and waffle at Horns New Orleans
Chicken and waffle at Horns

After brunch, we still had a couple hours to kill but we were low on money and it was pouring rain. We figured we should just head to the airport and have some drinks at a bar.

Unfortunately, Alaskan Air only seemed to have one flight that day–ours. This meant that the ticket counter was closed and we couldn’t check our bags until 4:00 PM, so we had to kill two hours sitting in the check in area. There were some limited concessions outside the security area, but there really is only so much you can do with large suitcases. Normally we try not to check bags for domestic flights, but my ballgown for the vampire ball alone took up a whole suitcase in addition to our other costumes.

We made it home on a plane with broken wifi and continuously coughing and farting passengers. All in all, it was a great trip and we would definitely like to do Halloween in New Orleans again. Next time we’d really like to see the big Krewe of Boo Halloween parade, and maybe do a haunted history tour. As for New Orleans in general, if we go back during a time other than Halloween we’d like to explore some neighborhoods outside of the French Quarter a little more and rent a car and get out of the city a bit. We did a swamp tour the first time we went to New Orleans and I’d like to do that again. There is so much to see. We will be back.