Day Thirty Three – Thursday, September 22, 2016


If you have been following along faithfully, back on Wednesday, when I posted Day Thirty Two, I mentioned at the end of the blog, that we were staying with our friends Nancy and Mike in El Paso, Texas for the next two nights, and there might be limited internet access. Well, there was, but not like we had limited internet in Yellowstone…this time we were just having too much fun to worry about a blog. More on that later!

We woke on day 33 in Roswell, New Mexico, having not been abducted or in any way harmed by aliens. I guess it must be a lot of BS, because the only aliens we saw were pictured on the advertising signs of various businesses on the main street! We were staying in a brand new, and beautiful Comfort Suites, and although the room was lovely, the breakfast room left a lot to be desired. The chairs looked like they had been through years of service, and were covered with butter, cream cheese, and other stains we didn’t want to think about. We couldn’t help but wonder why such a beautiful, new, and generally well appointed hotel, had chairs that looked like they’d been through the mill! Oh well, perhaps they ran out of money!

The day started after leaving the hotel with a stop for at a self-service car wash, for a quick cleaning of the outside of the car (you’ll see how useless that was), and then to fill the Sonata up with gas. After those two brief stops, we were out of town, and on our way to White Sands National Monument.


The drive was more up and down, and at one point Susie was driving and exclaimed, “Are we ever going to stop climbing?” The next thing we passed was a sign stating Elevation 8300 feet! We continued on our way, on a rather unremarkable road towards White Sands. One interesting thing was a sign we passed on Route 70. White Sands National Monument is a small part of the White Sands Missile Range, and when they do tests at the range, they close the road so no one is close to where perhaps there could be debris, should something go wrong. It is a test, after all!


We drove a little more on 70, and came to the White Sands National Monument. We went into the Visitor’s Center, looked at the exhibits, and watched a movie. I have to say, that it was’t the best Visitor Center we’ve seen, and the bathrooms were way below the usual, US Park Services usual condition and cleanliness standards, but they did serve their purpose. Then we headed towards the 17 mile Loop Drive.


My first disappointment, when we pulled up to the entrance station was that IT WASN’T MANNED! one to show my Senior Pass to! The second disappointment, was the first 2 or 3 miles of the Loop. We were driving at 45 MPH through low vegetation, and although you could see that the “ground” under the vegetation was white, I thought, “Is this all there is?” Well, it turned out that it wasn’t! Very soon, we came to a sign that said Pavement with caution! The text thing we knew, were were driving on the sand, and it was truly a magical world we had entered!

For folks like us from the North East, for all practical purposes, it looked like snow! So white and pristine, it looked like that first drive you take after the snow stops, and before the the beautiful white snow turns dirty and gray! Not only did it look like snow, but it was very obvious that they plow the “road” to keep it open! The thing that really didn’t track with what you were seeing, was the folks out and about were in shorts and t-shirts! Well, it may have looked like snow, but it was 94 degrees at the time, so even dressed as they were, I’m sure they were hot! Of course, you’re driving on sand, so that car wash I did in Roswell was $2.75 ill spent! Of well, who knew exactly what we were going to see?

After that it was time to head south, out of New Mexico and into the great state of Texas. We drove into it late in the afternoon of Thursday, September 22nd, and the Sonata will live in Texas till at least October 17th (I say the Sonata, because for two weeks from October 2nd till the 16th, Susie and I will be in the Caribbean on the Liberty of the Seas, but the Sonata will still be in Texas waiting for us). We exited New Mexico, after 5 nights, at Las Cruces on Interstate 25, heading to El Paso, and our friend’s Nancy and Mike’s house!

The Mike I’m talking about is Mike McKay, who was one of the last DJs on Musicradio 77, WABC in the early 80s. Mike and I worked together a lot, both doing music shows, doing field interviews (our notorious Kenny Rogers interview at the Meadowlands), and baby sitting the NY Yankees games on WABC. When the station went talk, Mike stayed on to do Staff Announcer work (commercials, promos, etc), but he had gotten in radio to be the guy on the air, and he left to pursue that. In the years since WABC, Mike, his wife Nancy, and their daughter Erin have lived the “itinerant DJ life” (Mike’s words), Working in places like Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Detroit, as Mike plied his craft as a DJ, and 19 years ago, they landed in El Paso. He first worked at KSET-FM, and later KOFX-FM, and in 2004, Mike became a part owner and Morning Show Host on 101 Gold, just up the road in Las Cruces. That’s what he did, till he retired earlier this year.

We followed the GPS as it took us off the interstate, through commercial areas of El Paso, into their neighborhood, and I will admit that Susie and I had a little trepidation. We hadn’t seen Mike and Nancy for over 30 years, and although they had graciously insisted that we cancel our hotel reservation, and stay with them for 2 nights, we wondered how comfortable the 4 of us would be together (they probably wondered the same thing). We pulled into they driveway, got out of the car, and as we headed towards their front door, the first member of the family we met was Sammy, their adorable little dog, who had hopped out of his doggy door, and came to greet us!


We rang the doorbell and Nancy and Mike came and greeted us. Handshakes and hugs were exchanged (Mike and I hugged, while Nancy and Susie shook hands), and they invited us inside. The first thing that happened was we got a tour of their lovely house, found out that they were giving us their bedroom for the two nights, and then Mike started the blender and whipped up frozen margaritas. This relationship showed great promise. Drinks in hand, we adjourned to their lovely backyard, which has a pool and ultimate privacy. In minutes, it was like the last 30+ plus years had not happened, and we were all much younger, having fun in their old house in Malvern, Long Island! At one point, Nancy and Mike went in separate directions to make dinner preparations, and Susie looked at me and said, “this is good…very good.”, and it was.

We had our first home cooked meal in close to 5 weeks (Filet Mignon, Twice Baked Potatoes, Broccoli, and Bernaise sauce for the steaks), and it was a wonderful night of food, conversation, and great friendship (and semi frozen Margaritas). We sat around the dining room table talking till almost midnight, when the 4 of us realized we’d better get to bed. As our heads hit the pillows, and we drifted off to sleep, we had visions of a wonderful day with Nancy and Mike. Stay tuned for Day Thirty Four, and more of our adventure in El Paso!

Day Thirty – Monday, September 19, 2016

I’m going to tell you a little secret. Over the last 30 days of our trip, Susie and I have become snobs! Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true, we like nice hotels! The Hampton Inn and Suites we were in last night is the kind of hotel that has spoiled us for the hotel we are in tonight! If you remember back a couple of weeks ago, we re-did a number of hotel reservations after a disastrous Rodeway Inn. Rodeways and Econo Lodges went bye-bye, and were replaced with Comfort Suites, Hampton Inns and Best Westerns. The one exception to that, is the hotel we are in tonight and tomorrow night, the Econo Lodge of Santa Fe, New Mexico. When we looked at the reviews for the hotel they were good, and when you consider that the two nights here are less than one night at last night’s Hampton Inn, it seemed like a no brainer. But, now we are here. Yes, the room is fine and the hotel is in a good location, but we are on the second floor and there is no elevator. There are very few lights in the room, no charging ports, and there is but one ice machine, which is also on the first floor (remember, no elevator). Not a bad hotel, but as I said up top, we have become snobs! Based on this, we just changed our accommodations in Roswell from a Rodeway Inn to a Comfort Suites…neither are run by aliens (and I mean the kind from other worlds)…we don’t think!

Today our target area was north of Santa Fe, the city of Los Alamos, New Mexico. If you remember your World War II history, you will recognize that as the home of the Manhattan Project, where they developed the atom bomb. One of our main reasons for traveling there today was the personal relationship it has to Susie. You see, during World War II, Susie’s Mom worked as a clerk typist for the government in the Woolworth Building in New York City. It was only after the bombs were dropped on Japan, that they all found out that they were working in the New York office of the Manhattan Project. She has a letter and a pin, thanking her for her service to the country, so we really wanted to see this place.

Our main stop of the day was the Bradbury Science Museum of Los Alamos. They have an extensive display about the Manhattan Project, and the continuing work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, including two movies. We enjoyed the displays about the Manhattan Project, especially the real history displays of folks who worked there during the war. Some were scientists, some military personnel, and some were just young woman who were looking to do their part for the war effort. One young lady was a clerk typist, like Susie’s Mom, and like Susie’s Mom, knew nothing of what they were doing. Her quote was, “When asked what was being made here, the answer was, “We’re making windshield wipers for submarines.” I really had no idea what was going on here till after the bomb went off at Hiroshima.” It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours and to get a better idea of what the Manhattan Project was, how it all really came about, and the controversies.

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On our way back to Santa Fe, we made another stop, one that I remembered from my childhood trip to California. You see, in 1960 when my Mom, Dad and I traveled across the country, we did so after my Mom and Dad finished the Cincinnati Summer Opera season. At that time, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where they were both members of the chorus, did nothing during the summer months, so members were in demand for various summer opera seasons around the country. 1960 was the first of five years my folks worked at the Cincinnati Summer Opera, and on our trip, we visited Santa Fe to see some of my folks’ fellow Met members who were working at the Santa Fe Summer Opera. On our way back from Los Alamos on US 285, there was an exit labeled Santa Fe Opera, and I had to see if it was anything like I remembered. To say that the Santa Fe that I remembered from 56 years ago is different than the current Santa Fe, would be a severe understatement. I have pictures in my mind that do not correlate with the large city Santa Fe is in 2016, and the Santa Fe Opera is no different. Turns out that since it started in 1957, there have been three Opera Houses, all at the same location, so this one dating from the 1990s would have not been one I might remember. We took the ride anyway before heading to the hotel.

Tomorrow our emphasis will be on Santa Fe, which is the second oldest city in the United States. The only one older is St Augustine, Florida, which we visited three years ago, even if all we remember is the Tini Martini Bar next to the Hilton Hotel!!


At 7000 feet, Santa Fe is also the highest State Capital in the United States, and the model name of our son Kenny’s Hyundai! See, we have a lot of personal connections to New Mexico!

Have a good night…we will!

Day Twenty Nine – Sunday September 18, 2016

After having breakfast at the Hampton Inn in Gallup, New Mexico this morning, we took care of a couple of tasks before we headed off on our way. The Sonata needed gas, and a car wash was in order too. So, after we took care of those tasks, we headed out of town. Our destination for tonight was Albuquerque, not a lot of milage today, so we had some time to explore. We decided to take a shot at Route 66 again, but this time New Mexico style!

According to Google Maps, Route 66 ran alongside Interstate 40 in Gallup, so we bypass Interstate 40, and of course went down a street that went nowhere! Unlike our original taste of Route 66 in Arizona, New Mexico doesn’t really seem to care if you find it or not! Eventually we did, and you can see from the pictures below, we did find some evidence of a different time.

We continued to follow Route 66 for some way out of town, till it dumped us on Interstate 40. At this point, we had no choice but to join the Interstate. But at several exits on the Interstate we found signs like the following, and stupidly followed them off the exit!


I say stupidly, because there was no evidence of Route 66 once we exited the Interstate. My cousins Jeanne and Walt traveled Route 66 this past spring, and in his blog ( Walt said that sometimes finding Route 66 took a bit of detective work. I know what he means. Twice we followed these signs off the Interstate, and the only evidence we found of Route 66 was a casino!


At one point, getting off the Interstate we didn’t find Route 66, but we did find a Walgreens, and stopped and picked up a couple of necessary items. Susie thinks she’s getting a cold, so being safe rather than sorry, she picked up some cough syrup just in case. As she was driving at this point, she took one more try at finding Route 66, and as she said, “Third time’s a charm.” We actually found a sign directing us to Route 66, and after turning, were rewarded with a Route 66 sign!! Hallelujah!!! Of course, by this time, we were just outside Albuquerque, but we were rewarded with some neat sights.

After exploring Route 66, we turned our attention to Old Town Albuquerque, and explored some there. At that point, we’d had enough “Detective Work” for the day, and headed to our hotel. We are in a Hampton Inn and Suites tonight, and have a room that justifies the Suites part of their name!

Tonight we are going to do something really different. We’re going to the movies! There is a 24 screen movie theater just a couple of blocks from the hotel, and at 5:30 we’re going to see a movie both of us have wanted to see since we first saw the ads..SULLY. Then in honor of today being National Cheeseburger Day, we are going to do something we haven’t done for years! We’re going to Fuddruckers ! Fudds was a go-to place for the D’Elias when the kids were smaller, but since the one next to Eisenhower Park closed years ago, we haven’t been to one. And that’s what day 29 was like….

See you tomorrow!!

PS – 8:01 PM, Mountain Daylight Savings Time

The movie was wonderful!  If you haven’t seen Sully, Susie and I encourage you to go see it!  It was a little strange watching all this New York action, from a theater in New Mexico, but it’s a great movie!

And the burgers…well Fuddruckers does not disappoint!!!  Happy Cheeseburger Day!





Day Twenty Eight – Saturday, September 17, 2016

First, a milestone. We have officially been on the road for four weeks, having left Mineola on Sunday August 21, 2016. That’s 4 weeks of hotels, four weeks of restaurant meals, four weeks of roadside attractions, four weeks of National Parks, four weeks of unforgettable sights, and four weeks, during which the two of us have spent every minute, of every hour, of every day of the four weeks together! The big news is that we are (A) still enjoying it and (B) still talking!!

There was another sunrise today, as we set our alarm for 6:30 AM, so that we could be up to see the sun come up over the other worldly Monument Valley! Thankfully, unlike the Grand Canyon, The Navajo Reservation follows Daylight Savings Time, so sunrise was an hour later at 7:05 today. Also, since all we had to do was step out on our private terrace, we didn’t have to get up, get dressed, and travel anywhere to see this amazing sight. As you can see in the attached pictures, it was indeed a great show. The sky first started to lighten, then a little hint of the sun comes up, and really not that slowly, the sun really makes it’s presence known! All this and the buttes, the mesas, and the mittens of Monument Valley made for the best sunrise we have seen on this trip. A word however, about sunrises in general. I told Susie that this is the last time I get up in the middle of the night, to see the sun rise over ANYTHING on this trip! This is an alarm free zone!

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Our Tour Vehicle

This morning we had a 9AM Back Country tour of Monument Valley scheduled with the Navajo Spirit Tour Company. So after sunrise, we got ourselves together, packed up, and checked out of the room. We met our guide, Will Cowboy (his real name) and the rest of our tour group in the parking lot, and after he told us a little about himself, we were on our way. I chose the Navajo Spirit Tour Company because this is a cooperative group, made up of Navajo people who conduct tours of this valley that they call home. Will’s family traces it’s roots back many generations in the valley, and he told us that his 109 year old Grandfather was born atop one of the Monument Valley buttes! This man was the real thing, and the information he gave us, the stories he told, and the sights he showed us on our tour proved that 100%.

The tour starts off on the same 17 miles off road loop of the valley anyone can do with their own car (no thanks), but then Will was able to take us into back country areas where only the Navajo people are allowed to go. One stop was at a demonstration village, where we watched a Navajo woman working wool and then making yarn out of it. Then Will explained the many different tools around the hogan (the traditional Navajo home), and the ways they made the various colors in the rugs. He also told us about how a Navajo man and woman got together, and many of the customs of his people. It was not only fascinating but also very educational.

Our next stop was incredible. It was a cave with a hole in the top (used in an Indiana Jones movie) that had the most incredible acoustics. Will had us lay against the wall, and showed us the different patterns in the rock, that made it look like a Navajo warrior, an Eagle, and even George Washington! Then he treated us to two traditional Navajo songs that he sung, accompanying himself with a traditional drum. What a really wonderful experience! Unfortunately, after this stop, we’d run out of time, and we had to get back. The 3 hour tour went fast as we stopped at many interesting places, saw beautiful sights up close, and learned a little about Monument Valley and the Navajo people!

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A couple of notes about the tour. At several of the places we stopped, local people had set up shops, displaying their wares. Will explained that these were people who lived in Monument Valley, and the items they sold were indeed Navajo made, unlike some of the items sold in the commercial gift shops, and every dollar you spent, actually went to a Navajo resident of Monument Valley. You remember Susie’s $1100 necklace from yesterday’s blog? Well, I am happy to tell you that Susie left Monument Valley with her Navajo jewelry. Three necklaces and three bracelets for the fabulous total of $77! Now that’s a good deal that puts the $$ in the right pocket! (And Will told us that the jewelry in the Gift shop comes from South of the Border…not the Navajos!)

Also, if you remember back several weeks to our tour of the Mormon’s Temple Square in Salt Lake City, you may remember the “know it all” tour member from Pittsburg. Well, today on our tour, we met his cousin from Tennessee, who tried to correct Will when we he was telling us where his people came from! Unbelievable!

We had a wonderful time on the Navaho Reservation in Monument Valley. If you ever get to this area of the country, Susie and I cannot recommend enough that you splurge and stay in the View Hotel in Monument Valley. The staff, the accommodations, the restaurant, and especially the view, are a once in a lifetime experience. We also have nothing but great things to say about Navajo Spirit Tours Back Country Tour, and if you are lucky enough to get Will Cowboy as your tour guide, you are indeed lucky enough!

However, all our Navajo Reservation dealings, were not as excellent as our Monument Valley experience. As we headed towards the New Mexico border today, Susie wanted to stop at the Four Corners Monument. This is allegedly on the spot where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. I said “allegedly” because Susie has read that this is not the exact spot where the 4 states meet. We really didn’t know that much about it, but it was only a slight detour, so off we went.

In our opinion, this was the exact opposite of the Monument Valley experience, in that this was a complete ripoff! First, we paid $10 to get it. Then we discovered that there is just a little concrete circle depicting the 4 states, but that it is surrounded by stalls selling things! In our opinion, this was nothing more than a bate and switch situation. We took a couple of pictures and left! If we were there 10 minutes, it was a long time!

Tonight we are in a Hampton Inn and Suites in Gallup, New Mexico. It was Susie’s plan to do laundry when we got to the hotel, and she was thrilled to find out that the guest laundry facility was just 3 doors down the hall from our 4th floor room. I was thrilled to find out that the ice machine was just next door to the laundry, making all our needs very convenient.

Speaking of convenient, the hotel shares a parking lot with a Comfort Inn and Suites and a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Susie was just saying today that she’s surprised at how few restaurants like Cracker Barrel, and Perkins we’ve seen the last 4 weeks. Since it was just steps away from the hotel, we took the “no-brainer” opportunity to walk over, and we had a very nice dinner. They have really great string beans by the way. Since this was the first meal we’d eaten today (we had some cheese crackers, Twizlers, and Swedish Fish in the car), we appreciated everything!

We realized today that the last time we were on an Interstate, was last Wednesday afternoon, on the way to the Grand Canyon, when Route 66 dumped us on I-40. It’s been only small roads since then, and virtually in the middle of nowhere. Since we left the Grand Canyon, till just before we got to Gallup, we were on the Navajo Reservation, so there was very few built-up areas. Tomorrow, we head towards Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Interstate 40 will again come into our plans.

See you then!