Saturday, March 20, 2010

New Mexico

A week ago I travelled with my girlfriend and travel companion, Laura, to New Mexico. I extended my business trip to Albuquerque on the front end to get a weekend in Carlsbad Caverns and Roswell, NM and Laura was kind enough to join me since Mike was busy at home with winter quarter finals.

This was my first time in New Mexico and I didn't really know what to expect. I was hoping for heat and sun but didn't expect Waffle Houses and Church's Chicken. Similar to my first trip to Florida, I was shocked to learn New Mexico is part of "The South." I always thought it was "The Southwest." I'm not sure what the distinction is but I think I expected more Mexico than Texas.

Upon arriving in Albuquerque, we picked up our rental car and immediately headed out on our six hour road trip to Carlsbad. Mike had made us four mixed CDs for the ride and, although our car was a base model Hyundai Accent with no cruise control or power anything, we had a CD player and air conditioning. With our mixed CDs and some quality time together we actually had a very comfortable and enjoyable ride.
When we got to Carlsbad we enjoyed some BBQ at Danny's and then called it a night. Our plan was to get up early the next morning to get a full day at Carlsbad Caverns, which was still about an hour further south.

What we learned first about Carlsbad Caverns is that everything was amazing and gorgeous. The second thing we learned was how hard it is to get a good picture in a cave with only a snapshot camera. The caves were almost pitch black and, although the picture may look well lit, the lighting inside the cave was nominal at best and a good picture required both a steady hand as well as a camera capable of taking a good picture with no light. Laura's camera did better than mine but we still didn't get much better than snapshot quality, which is a shame. The caves are phenomenal and exponentially better then portrayed in our sad pictures. This was definitely one of those times I wish I had one of those cameras requiring skill to operate, with different lens capabilities, that take 20 minutes to focus but you walk away having captured the experience just as you saw it and perhaps even better.
The cave didn't take us all day to get through, though. We did the Natural Entrance Route and the Big Room, which are the two free self-guided tours. The other tours require a guide and cost a fee. Unfortunately, although we wanted to do one of the guided tours, all the tours were sold out. Apparently, Carlsbad Caverns is a popular attraction during spring break. But, not getting a guided tour actually turned out okay for us. After spending 4 hours in the cave on the self-guided tours we were about ready to get some sunshine and fresh air.

Around 2PM we started the 2 hour drive to Roswell, where we would be spending Saturday night. We stopped at the International UFO Museum before checking into our hotel. It was actually pretty interesting though not at all high quality. There were several misspellings in the signage and the affidavits were from the '90's rather than the '40's but the news clippings were interesting and there was a debunking section as well as information regarding crop circles and Area 51.
Roswell is an adorable little town. We liked it a lot more than Carlsbad, which really was in the middle of nowhere. Roswell may have been in the middle of nowhere, too, but it felt a lot more alive than Carlsbad did.

On Sunday we drove back to Albuquerque for Laura's afternoon flight back to Seattle. Our girls only weekend was very relaxing and fun, combining sightseeing and road tripping with new adventures for both of us. We're already starting conversations about our next trip. I can’t wait!!! Thanks for a great weekend, Laura!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

2010 Contingency Plans

With Mike's rejection from the University of Edinburgh, we are mentally preparing for the fact that we might not be moving to Scotland this year, even though we are still waiting for responses from three other schools. In order to mentally prepare for this possibility we are trying to make plans that will keep us excited for another year, until Mike can reapply and we can attempt the move abroad one last time before giving up the dream.

One thing we're doing to keep us excited about staying in Seattle for another year, we're planning our Christmas/New Year's vacation. We had so much fun traveling this past Christmas that we've decided to try to travel every Christmas and this year we've decided on Venezuela. We don't think we'll have enough money/vacation time for another three week vacation, so traveling for 11-15 hours each direction is out of the question. Plus, Desi wants to use her newly acquired Spanish skills and we want to do something in the Caribbean (almost guarantying us warmth) but we don't want to redo a prior vacation (Playa del Carmen) regardless of how fantastic it was. Thus, we've decided Venezuela will be our next big trip.

Additionally, although Desi still absolutely adores her current gig, she's mentally prepared for a change, so she applied for another job within her current organization. She's not necessarily prepared to quit altogether but transferring to another area within the same organization would be a welcome change. Plus, the new job focuses on a subject that actually interests Desi, microfinance/micro lending, whereas her current gig, in education reform, was only something that she fell into which is similar to her prior gig which dealt with child welfare services and reform.

Whether we move to Scotland or not, the plan is to still sell both houses. We've been living in the same house in south Seattle for seven years this May and we're ready for a change. We don't want to buy another primary residence either. We're actually looking forward to the transient lifestyle of a renter, getting to select the best neighborhood in Seattle for our lifestyle, not having to deal with house repairs, no property tax. Oh, it sounds like Heaven. The house in Salt Lake goes, too. We're done with being homeowners, tax benefits be damned. We're really looking forward to having no financial responsibilities but that of rent. It sounds so freeing.
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