Back on the road and it feels good! We left the Arizona desert and headed straight to Pie Town, NM! We got to our free campsite just in time for a spectacular sunset before we bundled up for the 19 degree temps. This highway town of 186 people has some damn good pie and even better people. We had breakfast at The Gatherin’ Place and took a very berry pie to go as we made our way to Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is a place that I have been hearing about for many years thanks to my Granny and Gramps. I can see why this was a favorite vacation spot for them, the quaint downtown is stunning with its adobe buildings. Local artists were selling their goods in the town square, and I found the perfect turquoise ring to commemorate my trip. We spent the night in the Santa Fe National Forest and woke up to 4+ inches of snow covering MichelVangelo. Trudged our way down the snow covered roads to Meow Wolf.
This interactive art exhibit made by numerous local artists is unreal! From the outside it looks like an old K-Mart building and then you walk inside into an actual house. There is an entire story that you can follow, but we opted just to take it all in this time around. You can walk through the refrigerator into another world, step through an ice box into a room full of mirrors, slide through a washing machine, the list goes on. This place is family friendly, but some of the rooms might be a bit scary for younger ones. Meow Wolf is a must see when in Santa Fe, and two more are being built in Denver and Las Vegas (we can’t wait)!
Next stop: Truth or Consequences, NM. This gem of a town is known for their hot springs, more specifically their mineral content. Added bonus, there is no sulfur smell! At the turn of the century people flocked to this tiny town for a prescribed “21 day soak” to “cure anything that ails you.”
There are 10 hot springs in this town, we chose Riverbend Hot Springs and did a private soak overlooking the Rio Grande. They also have a public hot spring available (complimentary if you stay at their resort). After our soak we checked out Truth or Consequences Brewery Co a fun place with a great beer selection. Our day was topped off by the best sunset we have ever seen, E-V-E-R.
Due to the government shutdown we were unable to go to White Sands National Monument which was one of my top parks/monuments I was excited for before this trip… So it looks like we’ll have to make a trip back to New Mexico! Even though we didn’t see White Sands, we did get to stop and see familiar high school faces, Emily and Alex Smith and their three adorable children. I have to say, we have never had anyone as enthusiastic about our van as their kids were! It was so good to catch up and see all of them. I also have to thank Emily and Alex for the Cloudcroft Brewing Company recommendation. Such good beers and the cutest mountain town that is also getting added to the “must revisit” list!
Last stop in New Mexico: Roswell. A quick stop to check out the UFO Museum and for 5 bucks a person it was actually pretty interesting. New Mexico, you treated us well and we will be back! We made our way just over the Texas border and stayed the night at Monahans Sandhills State Park and braved the cold temps the next morning to sled down the sand dunes! We waxed up our (rented) sleds and felt like kids racing down the dunes. The next 4 hours of our lives were spent driving to (almost) the middle of Texas, this state is massive. The tedious drive was much more manageable as we listened to Steve Martin’s entire “Born Standing Up” audiobook.
Next stop: San Antonio, TX. Yes, we did the downtown Riverwalk, but it was a bit of a touristy sensory overload for me. Just a little ways from downtown you can still walk along the river but right next to beautiful and historic homes. We rented bikes and biked through the King William neighborhood, let’s just say I wouldn’t be mad if I had a house there. Another fun place we found on our bike tour was The Friendly Spot a perfect place to grab a cold one and bask in the sun.
We have Jason’s brother, Eric, to thank for our next stop: Driftwood, TX. When you’re in Texas you have to have BBQ and Eric gave us a gift card to The Salt Lick. Oh my, the place itself is massive (everything’s bigger in Texas) with a vineyard attached to it. It is BYOB and cash only, but you can buy beer/wine at the winery and bring it into the restaurant. We left The Salt Lick fat and happy!
Continuing our food tour through Texas, we landed in Austin and had the best breakfast tacos at Torchy’s (thank you Danny Lekwa for the recommendation!) and met up with another high school friend Allison for dinner at La Barbecue where I had some of the best brisket of my life! Allison is a world traveler and it was so fun to swap travel stories and catch up on life over the past 10+ years! Our last stop in Austin was a brewery that we found while we were walking to our van, Blue Owl Brewing. If you’re a fan of sour beers then you’re in luck, because that is all they brew. This brewery will forever be remembered as the place where Jason lost his wedding ring… So if you see a silver men’s wedding band the next time you’re in Austin let us know ;).
After all of the food and cities we made our way to east Texas to Davy Crockett National Forest to get back to our nature roots and camp among the tall pines. Our last and arguably my favorite stop in Texas was to visit my Uncle Mike and Chris in Mt. Pleasant, TX for my 31st birthday! A home cooked meal and meeting their amazing friends was just what we needed. I also have Mike and Chris to thank for taking us to a beautiful winery, Enoch’s Stomp and introducing us to some great Texas wine. A weekend filled with lots of laughs, many stories, a few beverages, and a box of full of homemade salsa, pickles and jams… we left very happy campers!
Chris told us that Louisiana roads were the worst roads in America and we can verify that his statement is indeed true. Uffda. Anyway, we made our way to a perfect dive bar in central Louisiana to watch the Superbowl where one lady single-handedly played “My Humps,” “Can’t Touch This,” and “The Cha Cha Slide”on the juke box. Followed by microwaved popcorn from the bartender, it was a pretty eventful night.
The birthday celebrations continued in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans. They were made even sweeter with one of my best friends Whitney joining us! Our first stop was to Atchafalaya for brunch. The building is beautiful and the food is spectacular! Definitely make a reservation ahead of time, you won’t regret it. A walk through the Garden District is a must! Beautiful homes and quiet streets can make you forget you’re in a city. Port Orleans Brewing Co. is a great spot for a beer. For dinner, my brother and sister in-law, Matt and Shannon, got me a birthday gift card to La Petite Grocery. Wow, the food and service was outstanding (definitely get the blue crab beignets)!
Our last full day in New Orleans consisted of Horn’s for breakfast, food/ afternoon drinks/”work” at St. Roch Market and a perfect evening at Bacchanal (thank you Barb and Rich) followed by late night dancing/shenanigans with Whitney and our buddy Brad on Frenchman Street.
Whitney had to fly out the next day, but we managed to squeeze in a lovely walk around City Park, complete with a visit of the exquisite botanical gardens and beignets from Cafe Du Monde food truck!
Now it’s time for a food detox!