Sunday, September 11, 2016

Scenic Byways and Ghost Towns

Well, we are headed home today but first, we wanted to do some letterboxing and drive the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway and the Lake Valley Backcoutnry Scenic Byway. You can read about the letterboxing at Lake Valley and Chloride Letterboxing. We left Silver City via US 180 and then turned onto NM 152 at Santa Clara. It wasn't long before we reached the intersection with NM 35. This is where the southern route of the Geronimo Trail ends (but for us today it was our beginning). Very near this intersection is a New Mexico Scenic Byway sign but it doesn't tell you which Scenic Byway. All along NM 15 from NM 35 to Hillsboro there weren't any signs stating that we were on a Scenic Byway much less the Geronimo Trail. We reached the intersection with NM 27 in Hillsboro and turned south here to drive the Lake Valley Backcountry Scenic Byway, stop and visit the ghost town of Lake Valley and plant a letterbox.
At the beginning of NM 27 there were two signs - a New Mexico Scenic Byway sign and a Backcountry Scenic Byway sign. But again it didn't state that we were on the Lake Valley Backcountry Scenic Byway. The Lake Valley Byway starts near I 25 and Caballo Lake and traverses NM 152 and then down NM 27 to Nutt, NM. Along the part of NM 27 is the ghost town of Lake Valley and it is about 16 miles south of Hillsboro. Between Hillsboro and Lake Valley we only saw one Backcountry Scenic Byway sign and again it didn't say which byway. There may be more signs between Lake Valley and Nutt but we didn't drive that part of the byway.v

Anyway, we turned onto Lake Valley School Road. We ended up reaching a gate that blocked entrance into Lake Valley. It was about 9:00am and we saw this sign on the gate . . .

Just when we had decided to turn around and leave, a man in a golf cart showed up and opened the gate.
Lake Valley Home
So we went in and drove to the School House which is now a museum and information center. Here we got a walking tour brochure and talked with the man about the history of Lake Valley. As we asked questions and he answered them we looked around the museum. Then we headed out to do the walking tour. You follow a trail around the town and get information about each building. We started to walk but decided it was too hot. So we got back in the car and just drove around the town and took pictures. Lake Valley was a mining town and it had a famous mine called the Bridal Chamber.

Here are some more links about Lake Valley . . .
Lake Valley Historic Townsite and Backcountry Byway
Lake Valley New Mexico
Lake Valley - Silver Mining Heydays
Tales of Lake Valley

While we were taking our tour Thomas noticed a structure (which looked like an informational sign) out along the highway.
View from Lake Valley
So after our short tour of the town we got back on NM 27 and headed to the sign to check it out. It turned out to be an informational sign about the Lake Valley Backcountry Scenic Byway. So we stopped and took pictures and read about the byway. From this sign you can see the Lake Valley school house and the town. From Lake Valley back to Hillsboro we saw two Backcountry Scenic Byway sign and none that said Lake Valley. But we did see a sign for the Geronimo Trail (which we weren't on that byway, maybe it was just to let us know we were getting ready to meet up with it). After a few minutes from that sign we arrived at the stop sign at NM 152 and I noticed a nice informational sign about the Geronimo Trail (just like the Lake Valley one). So we stopped, read about the trail and took some pictures. After visiting the Geronimo Trail sign we then continued along NM 152 to I 25. Between Hillsboro and I 25 we encountered two Lake Valley signs but no Geronimo signs. I know I mentioned these signs a lot but for some reason it bothered me that the Scenic Byways weren't marked that well. If you start your drive somewhere in the middle you don't have a clue that you are on a scenic drive. The drive this morning from Silver City to Lake Valley and to I 25 was incredible. There was just so much beautiful scenery and wonderful places to stop and explore.

We got on to I 25 and drove to Truth or Consequences so that we could stop at the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway Visitor Center.
Pioneer Store Museum, Chloride, NM
I didn't check the hours of the center and when we arrived the place was closed. Today being Sunday, it didn't open until noon and we were there at 10:00am. It wasn't a big deal, I just wanted to get some brochures and informtion. So we left T or C and got back on I 25. We drove for a while and then took Exit 83 which brought us to NM 181/52. This is the northern route of the Geronimo Trail.
Monte Cristo Gift Shop & Gallery, Chloride, NM
Not far from I 25 181 & 52 split and we continued our drive on 52 headed for Cuchillo, Winston and Chloride. From NM 52 there is a turn for NM 142 which takes you to Monticello. We opted to skip going there because of time so we just continued on NM 52. Again we were on the Geronimo Trail and the views were incredible and the drive relaxing and wonderful. We passed through Cuchillo and then Winston. In Winston we turned onto Republic Rd. (which at some point becomes County Road CO06. Then we turned onto Wall St. which brought us to Chloride. In Chloride we visited the Monte Cristo Saloon and Dance Hall / Gift Shop and Gallery; the Pioneer Store Museum; the Grafton Cabin and the Hanging Tree. At the Gallery and the Musuem we talked to a mother and daughter (Mrs. Edmund and Linda Turner). We found out that there are 11 people living in Chloride and all the buildings are privately owned. We had a great visit and enjoyed the museum immensely.
The Hanging Tree, Chloride, NM
Here are more links about Chloride . . .
Chloride New Mexico
Chloride, New Mexico: Ghost Town Pioneer Store Museum
Chloride - Center of the Apache Mining District
Chloride, New Mexico
A Resurrection: Chloride, New Mexico

Chloride is off the beaten path but the drive and the town are worth the visit. Make sure to visit the Pioneer Store Museum (you will learn so much about the town). There is no charge to visit the museum but please consider making a donation. They have worked extremely hard to conserve the history and charm of the town.
View Leaving Chloride
We left Chloride and retraced our drive to I 25 so that we could make our way home. The drive back home was uneventful. We didn't make any stops, I think we were just ready to be home after a busy weekend. We had so much fun, learned a lot about the area around Silver City, got to drive on some amazing scenic byways, visit a couple of ghost towns and see places we hadn't visited before. I am hoping we can do this on a regular basis to see other parts of New Mexico.
Sacred Datura
Silver City – Hillsboro – Lake Valley – Hillsboro – Truth or Consequences – Chloride – Santa Fe 
396 miles | 7 hours 26 minutes

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ruins and an Alligator

Today our plans included some ancient ruins and a big tree. We were up early this morning because we had plans to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Yesterday on our drive on NM 35 we saw a sign that said it could take up to two hours to reach the park. We had also been told by some friends that the drive takes at least an hour and a half. We started our drive in Silver City and took NM 15 (we didn't see a sign on this road). There is incredible scenery along this drive and there is beauty around every curve (and there are quite a few curves).
View from NM 15
The road winds its way through mountain terrain and is narrow in some areas. You get fantastic views of the valleys below, you pass through pine forests and there are impressive rock formations as you make your way north. New Mexico highway 15 is also part of the Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway. As we drove I asked Thomas to pull over and stop so I could take pictures. We also made two stops along the way to find letterboxes and you can read about that part of the trip at Boxing NM 15, Trial of the Mountain Spirits and Big Tree Trail. There is a scenic overlook with a short trail and interpretive signs at Copperas Vista (Senator Clinton P. Anderson Scenic Overlook). We stopped here long enough to read all the signs and take some pictures. Then we continued along the road and made another stop at a pullout with an interpretive sign for Alum Mountain. This spot also has some fantastic views. From this point we weren't too far from the Cliff Dwellings so we didn't make any stops until we reached the Visitor Center.

At the Visitor Center we got information from a woman working there, I collected my National Park Passport Cancellation Stamps and bought a couple of post cards, a patch and a small book about the Cliff Dwellings. Then Thomas and I watched the 15 minute video about the Mogollon Culture and looked at the exhibit of artifacts. Before we left the Visitor Center to head to the trail I asked the woman about their Senior Ranger program. She handed me a photocopied booklet and told me that when I finished it I could give it to any Ranger to get my patch. The trail to get to the Cliff Dwellings is not at the Visitor Center. You have to drive about two miles from the Visitor Center to the trailhead. There is also a small museum at this area.
Gila Cliff Dwellings
When we got to the trailhead we were handed a map and given a short orientation and then we could head out to the dwellings. The trail starts after you cross over a bridge. As we reached the end of the bridge a javelina ran across the trail and down a hill. Then we saw movement off to our left and saw three more javelinas. The trail starts out easy and you cross a few bridges over a creek and then the trail follows along the left side of the creek. This part of the trail is level and easy as you walk along the creek on your right and the cliff wall on your left. Eventually you reach some steps that take you up to the cliff dwellings. Once you reach the top of the steps the dwellings are just a short distance ahead. There are Rangers there that can guide you and answer questions. We had a great guide. Her name was Kess and she was volunteering as part of her college credit. She took us through the dwellings and answered all the questions we had. When we finished walking through the dwellings we headed down the trail back to the trailhead and museum. While on the trail and at the dwellings I filled out some of the Senior Ranger booklet and when I got back to the trailhead I finished it. When that was done Thomas and I walked through the small museum. Before we left the park we returned to the Visitor Center so I could turn in my booklet and get my patch.

After that we drove back down NM 15 to Silver City. In Silver City we went to the historic downtown area and walked around and the got something to eat. Now that we ate and were rested it was time to continue with our day.

Our next stop was past Fort Bayard at the Fort Bayard Administrative Site Trailhead. The goal for this trip was to see the Fort Bayard Big Juniper Tree.
Big Alligator Juniper Tree
This tree is the second largest alligator Juniper Tree. Its diameter is 70.2 in, circumference is 18 feet 4 inches, crown spread is 62 feet, and height is 63 feet. We took the Big Tree Trail and walked between two and two and a half miles to get to the tree. The trail is relatively easy. Along the trail we walked through a gate and crossed over the Wood Haul Trail and passed the intersection for the Sawmill Wagon Trail. During our walk we went through stands of oak and maple trees and saw beautiful meadows full of wildflowers. Actually there were wildflowers all along the trail. We finally reached the Big Tree and it is pretty impressive and worth the hike. We spent a little time hanging out at a picnic table next to the tree. After about 30 minutes we made our way back to the car. I guess we walked around five miles and it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

We returned to Silver City and decided we had earned the right to get ice cream. So we made a quick stop at Dairy Queen and got blizzards to take back to the hotel. Now that we have taken showers we are relaxing and discussing our day. We had a fantastic time at the Gila Cliff Dwellings and enjoyed the Big Tree.

Silver City – Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument – Silver City – Fort Bayard Administrative Site – Silver City
113 miles | 3 hours 52 minutes

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Town of Stone, a Scenic Byway and an Old Mine

We are in Silver City and it is our first day in the Gila Wilderness. We woke up sometime around 7:30am and we got our things together and put them in the car. Then we went back into the hotel for a quick breakfast. Around 8:45am we left the hotel and set out for the day. Our plan was to go to the Visitor Center and then head out to Reserve, Alma, Mogollon and Glenwood for some sightseeing and letterboxing.
At the Visitor Center we talked with the woman working there (who was extremely nice and knowledgeable) about things in the area and we picked up a map and some brochures. When we were getting ready to leave we mentioned we were heading up to the Catwalk and the woman said "No, you aren't!". When we asked why, she told us that they had some bad rains last night and there was too much debris on and around the Catwalk that they closed it for the weekend. This is the second time we made plans to visit the Catwalk and the second time we were deterred. The first time happened years ago and I will forego that long and embarrassing story for now. So with this news we made changes for the day. We decided to start our day at City of Rocks State Park. This is a place we have been wanting to visit but never made the time. Now was the time. There was also a letterbox there which just added to the trip. You can read about our letterboxing adventures at Stones, a Pig, a Byway and a Burro. We arrived at the park and went directly to the Visitor Center and talked with the volunteer there. She gave us a map and some information about the park and also gave us a handout so that we could look for some petroglyphs. You can park at the Visitor Center and walk all around the park or you can drive the loop road and stop at different spots to do some exploring. We chose the latter. We took the loop counterclockwise and immediately encountered one of the more well known rocks - 'Toilet Rock'. I took a few pictures and then we moved along. A short distance ahead we stopped at the Botanical Garden. We took a short walk along a trail that starts here and then returned to the car. We continued our drive along the loop and made some stops along the way to look at the formations and to look for the petroglyphs. We only found two of the petroglyphs, the others we had trouble following the directions. There are picnic tables scattered throughout the rocks and trails that you can walk. The formations are incredible and we enjoyed walking around them. One of the other things we noticed was an abundance of wildflowers. I couldn't believe how many wildflowers we saw at this time of year. We spent about two hours here and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Now it was time to continue on with our day.

City of Rocks is off of NM 61 on City of Rocks Road. We had come from the west to get to the park and when we left we headed east on NM 61 to the junction with NM 152. We turned left on NM 152 and only drove a short distance before turning right onto NM 35. At this time we were on the Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway. About a quarter of a mile along NM 35 we saw a restaurant and decided to get a late lunch as it was a little after 2:00pm. We ate at La Tienda del Sol. This place is a restaurant, store and gas station. It is located between San Lorenzo and Mimbres and it is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. We both had burgers. They were delicious and the service was wonderful. Once we had our fill we began our drive on NM 35. We had two goals - plant a letterbox and find a letterbox. The drive is along a narrow, two lane, blacktop and curvy road. The scenery is beautiful and the drive relaxing and we had the good fortune of having no traffic. There are few places where you can pull off and look at the views. There are also side roads that you can explore. We also noticed trail heads up and down the road. When we got to mile marker 16 we encountered a nice Trail of the Mountain Spirits Welcome Sign and I planted my letterbox near this sign.

We continued our drive, turned into a picnic area and ended up at Lake Roberts where we took a short walk along the lake before returning to the car. After our walk we looked for another letterbox before continuing our drive. We finished the drive on NM 35 to NM 15 and on to Silver City.
Tyrone Mine Reclamation
We continued south of Silver City on NM 90 and passed the town of Tyrone. We were headed for a letterbox. We turned onto Tyrone Thompson Road and immediately on the left was an overlook. We stopped here and and read a little about the copper mining in the area and the reclamation process. From the overlook you were looking at an area that had been reclaimed so it was quite an education. After this we went in search of the letterbox and then headed back to Silver City. Since we had a late lunch we weren't really hungry for dinner but we felt we needed to eat something or we would probably wake up in the middle of the night with cravings. We stopped and shared a sandwich, which was just enough to hold us until morning. We then returned to the hotel and took showers. We are now relaxing and we plan on getting a good night's sleep for our adventure tomorrow.

Silver City – City of Rocks State Park – Mimbres – Lake Roberts – Silver City – Burro Mountain Road – Silver City
145 miles | 3 hours 46 minutes

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Gila Wilderness Weekend

Thomas and I are taking a long weekend to spend time in the Silver City area. We plan on visiting The Catwalk, Gila Cliff Dwellings and City of Rock State Park. Hopefully this will be relaxing and fun. We left Santa Fe around 2:30pm and headed south on I 25. When we got to Socorro we decided to stop and get something for dinner. We ended up at Sofia's Kitchen and Buritto Tyme. The food was delicious especially their salsa. Once we finished dinner we continued our drive. We took Exit 63 and turned onto NM 152. This highway from I 25 to Kingston is part of two New Mexico Scenic Byways - Lake Valley Backcountry and Geronimo Trial. The Geronimo Trail part continues to the intersection with NM 35. I have one box hidden on this road at Emory Pass that needed to be updated so we made a quick stop to take care of it - you can read about it at A Letterboxing and Visiting Weekend. From Emory Pass we continued our drive along NM 152 enjoying the views along the way. We stopped to take pictures every now and then as well. The road winds through the Black Range Mountains and eventually ends at US 180. We made a right turn here and drove the rest of the way to Silver City. By the time we arrived at the hotel it was dark and we were tired. After quick showers we are relaxing and planning for tomorrow.
Sunset over the Gila Wilderness

Santa Fe – Socorro – Kingston – Silver City
299 miles | 5 hours 5 minutes

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Zapata Falls Recreation Area

While Thomas and I were in Alamosa and visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve we also decided to make our way to Zapata Falls Recreation Area. So after spending most of the day at Geat Sand Dunes we drove the short distance down CO 150 to the turnoff for the falls. There is a BLM sign where you turn onto a dirt and rock road. From the sign you travel about three and a half miles on this very rough and rocky road to the parking area for the falls. When we arrived the parking lot was full but we were lucky to find one spot to park. From the parking lot you have a great view of Great Sand Dunes. Thomas and I had been to the falls once before back in 2006 and we knew that to see the falls you had to wade through the South Zapata Creek to get to a cave to view the falls. So we had done some planning. We brought our water shoes that we use for kayaking and towels.

So from the parking lot we hiked up the rocky half mile trail to the edge of the creek. Once there we found a bench and changed into our water shoes and headed into the water. For August the water was damn cold. But we got use to it and trudged along. The creek is full of rocks made smooth by the moving waters so they can be slippery and I was glad we had our rubber soled shoes. There were quite a few people around but when we got to the cave (just a short little wak through the water) there were only three people there. When you first enter the cave you see a small water fall at the back and when you go further into the cave you can see a second fall higher up. It is absolutely beautiful and worth the rocky hike and cold water to see. We spent ten or so minutes taking pictures and enjoying the falls and then made the short walk back to the trail. We took our wet shoes off, dried our feet and put our other shoes on to walk back to the car.

We were only there a short time but we thoroughly enjoyed it - the area is beautiful and relaxing. I think it would be great to take some sandwiches and have a little picnic in the shady area along the creek. I wouldn't mind taking another trip back here soon.

Here are a few links with information and pictures about Zapata Falls . . .
Zapata Falls National Recreational Area
Hidden Colorado Gem: Zapata Falls
Zapata Falls - National Park Service
BLM Colorado | Zapata Falls Recreational Area
Zapata Falls Trail - Colorado |
Zapata Falls - Alamosa
Zapata Falls Hike Colorado | Day Hikes Near Denver
Zapata Falls - Southern Colorado Guide
Zapata Falls: Short Hke to a Hidden Waterfall

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Thomas and I decided to take a weekend get away to Alamosa, Colorado and visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve as well as the Zapata Falls Recreation Area. This morning we set out around 8:00am and made the 40 minute drive from Alamosa to the Park. We took US 160 and then CO 150 to get to the Dunes. When we arrived there was an electronic road sign announcing that today the National Park Service was celebrating its 100th Anniversary and admission for the day was 'FREE'. As we entered, a Ranger at the fee station welcomed us and gave us a Park Visitor Guide. We continued up the road and made a stop at the Visitor Center. While I got my National Park Cancellation Stamps Thomas looked around at the exhibits. This Park has four Cancellation Stamps out for you to stamp into your Passport Book. So I got those four and then asked the Ranger at the desk if they had any stamps saved in the back. They had three stamps so I took the time to stamp those into my book.

Once I was done stamping I asked the Ranger if they allowed adults to do the Junior Ranger Program. She said 'yes' and handed me a pencil and three booklets (Junior Rangers and Park Explorers, Centennial Junior Ranger Activity Book and Historic Preservation Junior Ranger Activity Book). Most of the National Parks allow adults to participate in the Junior Ranger Program. Some of them have Senior Ranger Programs as well. I first learned about this from a letterboxing friend. She and her husband have been to all the National Park Units in the lower 48 states and she even has a blog about the Junior Ranger Programs that is called Junior Ranger - Senior Friendly Programs.

The Junior Rangers and Park Explorers (specifically for Great Sand Dunes) book is divided into four age groups - Ages 3-6, Ages 7-9, Ages 10-12 and Ages 13 & up. Each age group has an icon (Kangaroo Rat, Bear, Elk and Binoculars) and each age group had to complete a certain number of activities that were marked with the icon for the age group. So I had to complete six activities marked with a binocular - these included things like Dunes Bingo Scavenger Hunt, Be an Artist (draw something you saw out on the dunes), Dunes Exploration (list animals and plants you saw and write a poem about how the dunes were formed), Draw the Arrowhead logo, Habitat Diversity (the different habitats of the Dunes) and Habitat Match (match animals and plants to there habitat).

The Centennial Junior Ranger Activity Book is divided into three age groups - Ages 6 and under, Ages 7-10 and Ages 11 and older. For this book I had to complete 10 activities in this book. This is a special ranger program to celebrate the National Parks 100th anniversary. There was nothing marking which activities I had to do - it just stated that 11 and older had to complete at least 10 activities in the book. Activities included National Park Service Symbols, Keeping a Journal of the day, Past and Present Native Cultures, Write a Cinquain Poem (a five line poem that does not rhyme), Rappin' with a Ranger (interviewing a Ranger about their job) and Protecting Special Places. I ended up 11 activities.

The Historic Preservation Junior Ranger Activity Book is divided into three age groups - Ages 7-9, Ages 10-12 and Ages 13 and up. For this book I had to complete 10 activities. This booklet had to do with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The activities in this book included Word Search, a Maze (matching people to places they helped to protect), Matching National Parks with their locations, Civilian Conservation Corps (write a letter home describing what your job is with the CCC), Unscrambling Park names, Crossword Puzzle and Solve a Code. I was able to 10 of the activities completed.

Now that I had these books I needed to find a place to sit and look at the books to see what I needed to look for and to do to complete the activites. But before this I wanted to get my squished pennies. The penny machine is located in the gift shop so I went there and got that done and then I found a bench and looked at the booklets. You can complete the books by looking around the Visitor Center, taking short hikes and walking out to the dunes.
So once I knew what I was looking for and the things I needed to complete the books Thomas and I drove up to the Dunes Parking and then headed out for a walk to and up the Dunes. The two highest points on the Dunes are High Dune (699 ft.) and Star Dune (755 ft.) and we decided to start walking and see how far we got. To get to the Dunes you have to walk across Medano Creek. Today the creek was almost non existent so it was easy to get across. At first the sand is level and easy enough to walk on. But as you get to the point when the the sand becomes hills it gets much harder to walk. The sand is deep and each time you take a step your foot sinks and slides back a little bit and it seems like you aren't getting anywhere. As we walked (with our sights set on making it up to High Dune) we started to think we may not make it. Our legs were getting a really good workout. But we kept trudging along and eventually (with a lot of rest breaks) we made it up to the top. We also thought that we might want to try to get to Star Dune but once we got to High Dune we just didn't have the energy. So we sat at the top and enjoyed the views for a while and then decided to head back to the car.

At the car we opened the back hatch and sat there and took off our shoes and socks and emptied out the sand. I was shocked how much sand we had collected in our shoes.  We got rid of the sand and put our shoes on and then found a bench to sit on and work on the Junior Ranger Books. I think we spent about an hour working on these. I didn't get everything completed but we decided to go see another part of the park. We drove out on a primitive road (very narrow and very sandy) to a spot called Point of No Return. We didn't get to stop here because the small parking area was packed. So we continued a short distance up the road to find a wider spot to turn around in. After this we headed back to the Visitor Center where I was able to finish my Junior Ranger booklets. When I was done I went and found a Ranger and turned in the booklets. The gentleman that helped me looked through all three books to check what I had done and then he signed my certificates and issued me the Junior Ranger oath. Then he gave me a wooden badge for the Centennial Junior Ranger, a plastic badge and a patch of the park for the Junior Ranger and Park Explorers. He couldn't give me the award for the Historic Preservation booklet because I have to go to a park with an historic building or ruins. I had a good time working on these booklets and I feel I learned much more by doing these programs than I would have with just visiting the park.

This is an incredible park and the dunes are amazing. I am glad we made the time for this trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. It was worth every minute and every mile.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ciao Italia!

This morning started early with a 2:30am wake up call. Thomas and I got up and dressed, finished packing and got our bags out in the hall at 3:00am. We then went down to the lobby at 3:30am and had some breakfast that they had for us in a bag. At 4:00am the shuttle showed up and they got our bags loaded. Then after telling Linda goodbye we headed for the airport (Aeroporto Internazionale di Napoli). We got checked in and went through security and found our gate. At 6:55am we took off headed for Rome.
We landed at Rome's Flumicino airport (or Leonardo da Vinci airport) at around 8:00am. Here we had a four hour layover. We made our way to the area for our gate for the next leg of our flight to Atlanta. Once there we found a restaurant and got a little something to eat. Then we found a place to sit and read. About an hour before the flight Thomas and I got called to the counter to get a security check. It was a quick check - all they did was ask where we had come from and if we packed our own bags. By this time they were starting to board so we got in line. It took 50 minutes for them to get the plane loaded. We got settled in our seats and started reading. Finally we took off at 12:45pm (30 minutes later than the scheduled departure).
Throughout the flight we ate, read, played games and talked. The flight was 10 hours but seemed like it lasted a couple of days - it just didn't want to end. About 5:20pm we landed at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport. After getting off the plane we checked in with passports at a kiosk and got a printout which we took to a desk and went through customs. Then we had to pick up our bags and went through another checkpoint. Once pass this point we rechecked our bags and then went through security. It was totally ridiculous - it took one hour and fifteen minutes from the time we got off the plane to the time we got to the gate for our flight to Albuquerque. And we went through four checkpoints - totally unnecessary and time consuming. But we were glad it was done. Once we had found our gate we went and got a bite to eat then returned to our gate and read until it was time to leave for Albuquerque. We boarded at 8:55pm and took off at 8:30pm. The flight was just under three hours and we just read the entire time. Finally we landed in Albuquerque at 9:40pm. By this time we had been awake for 27 hours. We got off the plane and went to baggage claim where we had to wait about 20 minutes for our bags. Then we caught the shuttle to Airport Parking and to our car. We got the bags in the car and took off for home. Fifty minutes later we arrived in our driveway. The dogs greeted us and we spent a little time loving them. Then we got the bags into the house and took showers. It was midnight by the time we went to bed. We were up for 30 hours but we are glad to be home.