|The 4th of July traffic was just awful! ;-)|
What is getting a little "old" for me is the dreadfully boring drive to get there. I announced on Facebook that I would be spending the long 4th of July weekend in Santa Fe and two different friends moaned and groaned about how bad the traffic was going to be for me.
When I go to Santa Fe, I always use some of my Diamond International points to stay at the Villas de Santa Fe, a nice little complex tucked within the trees just to the north of the historic downtown area, an easy 1/2 mile walk to the historic Santa Fe plaza.
I stopped at an Albertsons grocery store just off of the I-25 exit. This was so much easier than trying to get into and out of the Albertsons that is just one block from the Villas. I must remember this for future. I arrived at registration desk about an hour too soon, so I went ahead and parked my car in a shaded spot next to the building I knew would be where my unit assignment would be, then walked into the center of town to get a Starbucks. I returned back to the Villas and then sat on the pretty front porch of the main building and sipped my cappuccino and checked my emails.
|The very pleasant front porch of the resort main building|
An hour later I was in my unit, groceries unloaded, and I was making plans for dinner. I'd bought a rotisserie chicken and makings for salad, a bottle of wine, and had a very nice dinner after a kind of crappy day of road food.
The next morning early I donned my running clothes and shoes and headed out for the Starbucks southwest of my villa. This is about a mile away and a nice short jog to acclimate myself to the 7,000 foot elevation, which is always a shock but getting to be even more so as I age. Back at my rooms, I had breakfast of Cheerios and strawberries along with my cappuccino, lingering a bit as I browsed the internet and checked in on the status of Iron Butt Rally, which had just started that Friday morning.
This event, put on by the Iron Butt Association (IBA) is held biannually and is truly for the most hard-core of distance riders. While I have myself earned 15 different IBA ride certificates - several SS1000 (1000 miles in 24 hours), two BBG (1500 miles in 24 hrs), one SS2000 (back to back 1000 mile days), and five National Park Tours (two of them Silver level) - I never aspired to do the hardest of them all, the Iron Butt Rally. But it is sure fun to be an armchair cheerleader for the many friends of mine who have completed this in the past and those who were doing it this year.
So with this going on in the background of my consciousness, I spent less time than I usually do getting out and about. It has the same draw for me as do the Olympics when it comes to following and watching the event(s) unfold.
But I did get out and did put some miles in each day, did visit the Starbucks in the center of town every morning, did have some really fine SW cuisine.
One of my favorite places is the Basilica in the center of town. It sits majestically at the end of the main street in town and has a very pleasant shaded plaza with benches just begging for me to have a seat, sit back, and enjoy the scenery and the weather.
I made sure to stop into my favorite chocolatier in town - Senor Murphy's Candy - and buy a couple of my favorite chocolate bars and then browse a bit, enjoy the plaza a bit, visit with all of the dogs and their owners that are enjoying the shade in that plaza.
One of the IBR bonuses happened to be right in the center of town. I noticed this while watching the SPOT tracking aggregate page. Many SPOT's were making their way into the downtown Santa Fe area and when I zoomed in, I could see exactly what the participants were going for. So the next day, noticing two SPOT tracks making their way into town, I walked into town myself, bought a Starbucks and then positioned myself next to that bonus location to wait for one of the riders to show up. The administrator of the SPOT aggregate page builds in an intentional 20 or 30 minute delay so that folks can't stalk the riders. But I'm good friends with that administrator and know about this delay so I timed my arrival in the center of town accordingly.
As I waited for one or more riders to arrive, I noticed that police were closing off all of the side streets accessing the street where the bonus was located. Soon I saw a very large procession moving up the street, many of the people in some sort of costumes, and heading toward the Basilica at the other end. Looking more closely, I could see that these costumes were 16th century conquistador and senora costumes.
|The start of the procession|
I soon realized that it was a religous procession, the return procession of la Conquistadora from Rosario Chapel to the Basilica. Doing a little research on this afterward, I learned that there's quite a bit of interesting history here. This particular Madonna is the oldest continuously revered Madonna in the U.S.
The procession seemed to go on forever! I realized this was really going to gum up the riders' plans who were approaching this bonus location. These riders are on the clock and have their routes planned to within minutes with very little room for delay or error. But then I saw an obvious long distance rider on the other side of the street, on foot, trying to get across through the religious procession.
|The end of the procession: the very old and very special Conquistadora Madonna|
When he got over to my side of the street I watched him as he seemed to be confirming the bonus item (a statue of a donkey carrying a load of wood) and then seemed to be looking about at the various people milling about and watching the parade. I approached him, asked him if he was doing the IBR rally, then introduced myself. When I commented on the parade, he agreed and said he'd had to park a couple of blocks away and walk in. It was then that he asked me if I would take his picture in front of the bonus item. Clearly he'd been looking for a likely candidate to do that for him, and seemed relieved that he'd found a fellow IBA person to do it for him. He'd apparently lost his rally flag somewhere along the way, which meant that he himself had to appear in all subsequent bonus photos. That is a tough thing to do when using a required point-and-shoot camera. No cell phone cameras are allowed in the rally. So that excitement over, I slowly returned to my villa.
|My early morning run route|
The next morning I got up early and went for a 3 mile run on a route I'd worked out the last time I was here. It was pleasant temperatures in the high 50's with nice shade and pleasant views along the way. I of course made sure I stopped at the Starbucks in the center of town before finishing my run. I had breakfast then got showered and dressed and ready for the day.
I was starting to "lose steam" on this trip and began thinking about cutting it a day short. With my fairly new cat, I am still anxious about leaving him home alone. I've been taking this slow and cautious, adding one day to each trip and judging his reaction and how well he handles being home without me. My last trip - to Niagara Falls - left him home for five days/four nights. This trip would leave him home for six days/five nights. The last trip he seemed to handle it well, but every day I add to the experiment is uncharted territory for this cat.
I walked down to the shopping center nearby and had a very nice lunch at a little restaurant with a lovely outdoor patio. Here I contemplated my plans for the next day, even considered if I even wanted to stay another day or not.
So Monday evening I made the decision to leave a day early and got my things packed up, made a hotel reservation for the next night in Abilene, and then moved as much as could out to the car in advance of an early departure the next morning.
I had no trouble waking up early (my body still thought it was an hour ahead) and managed to get on the road by 6 AM on the 4th of July. I packed my perishable food items as best as I could to preserve as much cold as possible. It helped that I had an unopened bag of frozen vegetables, an unopened bottle of chilled wine, and the better part of a 12-pack of sparkling water. All of these items helped to hold the cold for the fresh fruits and vegetables I was determined to bring home with me. I triple bagged all of this into my reusable fabric shopping bags, and brought all of it in with me to my room in Abilene to keep it cold in the mini-fridge in the room. I watched the fireworks on PBS and then switched to NBC to catch the New York City fireworks and then fell asleep quickly.
By noontime the next day I was pulling into my own driveway and greeting my cats. And of course, they were both just fine! All of my anxiety was for naught. Orange Guy has proven to be quite capable of handling himself in my absence without doing naughty cat things. Nyla was happily enclosed in the master suite, a very large space including bedroom, large bath and giant walk-in closet. She spends much of her days in there anyway and seems fine being enclosed in that space with food, water, and kitty litter since she's given a bit of a respite with space and privacy from Orange Guy.
Trip is done, and now it's home for several weeks, dealing with the heat and humidity of Texas summers. Lots of things to do as I work on various projects for our upcoming play production in November. Then a nice vacation with family at my place on Captiva Island in August. Can't wait!!