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Monday, April 1, 2013


When Samantha and I decided to go on our road trip, we could not help but think of the 1991 movie.  Apart from the fact we did not go to any bars, did not meet any nasty characters, did not drive a convertible on the road, or over a cliff, nor drive through Texas, and neither of us were running away from our husbands, it was identical.  My name began with 'T', and Samantha's didn't!  Well perhaps if you stretch the imagination slightly.  We were going for a two day vacation, and we were going to see some mountains, and we were going to be doing a lot of driving.

The only problem I foresaw was.....  Perhaps I should rephrase.  I saw some potential problems, (spending 24/7 with my daughter, and her spending 24/7 with her mother, could become slightly testy,) the main one was how was I going to get on a plane that had propellers!  We had negotiated a 'day off' on Good Friday, as it is, historically,very quiet, and planned a trip to the Four Corners Monument; the place where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, meet.  The original plan was to fly to Albuquerque, stay overnight, and drive four hours to the site.  However, I found a town, reasonably near, by the name of Farmington, still in New Mexico, and this would put us in a position to see a little more of the other three states.  It was after Dana booked the flights, that I saw it was the Four Corners Regional Airport.  The size of plane that lands in a Regional Airport is, obviously, not of 'standard' size, and I found the picture of the 19 seater, online.  (When telling one of my clients/friends, that I was travelling to Farmington, she asked, 'on purpose!') 
I met Samantha at the Austin International Airport, at about 6:50am, and after purchasing some rather delicious looking breakfast tacos, we boarded the plane, both wearing our 'We are going to Utah' t-shirts.  We answered in the affirmative, when questioned as to whether we would be willing and able to perform the function, should the matter arise, of the 'Exit Row'.  However, I told Samantha that she would have to take care of business, should the matter arise, as while I was willing and able, I could not guarantee the lack of hysteria on my part!  Perhaps I should have moved, and given my seat to a more willing participant, but I remained seated and trusted that flying is a very safe way to travel!  The announcement to 'turn off anything with an on/off button', caused me to comment to Samantha, 'It is now that you would find out if you are a robot!'  Somewhat bemused, but willing to humour me, she asked, 'Why?'  Of course, the answer was that you would have an 'on/off' switch, as you would probably be electronic.  Wondering how she ended up with a mother like me, her face showed one of those 'Oh my goodness; I have to spend the weekend with her', looks, and shook her head.

Our breakfast tacos were the envy of the flight attendant, and we ate with gusto on our way to Denver, Colorado.  We ate, and knitted, and then de-planed.  It was quite a trek from one terminal to the other, but we had plenty of time.  My enthusiasm waned as I looked out of the window and saw the size of the plane I was requested to board to complete my journey.  We walked through the terminal door, and then along the tarmac to the plane, and up the steps.  The crew consisted, so it appeared, of one cabin member.  He told us that we may sit where we wished, and despite my seat being '1a' it was far from first class.  I looked around to see if there was a better choice, and started to back out.  'Sit down and buckle up', demanded Samantha.  I did as I was told.  The seat was at the front, but did not have a window, so I moved one back, and waited for the rest of the passengers to take a seat.  Samantha shook her head.  The door was pulled up, and we were going to be on our way.  However, someone called out, 'there is one more', and the door was opened again, and the final passenger climbed aboard.  Before the door closed for the second time, I had received a message from my cousin, Lesley, who asked if we had a pilot.  I had joked that he doubled up as the hostess, as I could see his apron and wig!  Much to my dismay, as we were ready to move, he jumped into the front seat and took the wheel!  I did not have to worry about the seat belt signs going off before using the restroom, as the plane did not have one.  It did, however, have a long seat at the back, and its inhabitant spread horizontally along the three seats and went to sleep for the duration. 

Surprisingly enough, I quite enjoyed the flight, apart from the feeling that the vibrations had loosened all my fillings.  The views were spectacular.  I wasn't sure whether I was able to take pictures, but as other's were listening to ipods, etc, I decided I would take my chances. Knitting was not an option, as I did not relish the thought of having a needle stuck up my nose, should we hit a 'cloud', or worse still, stabbing the woman sitting at the opposite window.  I chose, instead to enjoy the snow covered peaks, and deep ravines for as far eye could see for miles.  Samantha, it appears, was the temperature monitor, as the pilot periodically turned and asked her if it was too warm.  I was convinced that the co-pilot was taking his final driving test, as he appeared to be 'graded' on every move.  Samantha attempted to put my mind at rest, and said they always have to keep a log.  I was not convinced.  I believe they put the 'learner driver' pilots on this route, before they are allowed out in the 'big' planes.  The final fifteen minutes did feel as if we were being worked by someone controlling the strings of a puppet, but we landed without incident. 

Farmington airport was smaller than some homes I have visited.  With one plane on the tarmac, which was ours, it looked busy!  As we walked through to the terminal, which was one room, Elton John was singing, Benny and the Jets.  Here we were, two women who had moved to Texas, from just outside Watford, England, in a remote town in New Mexico, listening to Watford's most famous son!  It was quite surreal!  The Avis car hire man was very pleasant, and after failing to sell us additional insurance, and an upgrade to a car that would give us better fuel consumption (which would cost more per day than the amount of fuel we would actually consume during the whole weekend) he finally gave us the keys, and pointed us to our very nice, comfortable, Chevy Cruz.  Dana's directions to the hotel were, of course, perfect, and ten minutes after leaving the airport, we were in the reception of the Four Corners La Quinta.  Our room was on the upper floor, and we were given a list of 'specialties'.  The hotel offered free Internet. (without having to use a password, our receptionist proudly announced,) and (even more proudly announced) '30 HD TV channels!'  We were given the key cards to our room, and after insisting we could find it without help, we circled the building and came back into the reception to ask for assistance.  Our room did not seem to exist.  After listening more carefully to the instructions, I went back to the car, got into the back seat, closed the door, and wondered where the wheel had gone!  Samantha was laughing so hard, she could not breathe.  I got back into the driver's seat, somewhat bemused at my own stupidity, and drove three yards to the parking spot.  Our room was clean, which was enough, and we dropped off our bags.  As time was of the essence, we got back into the car, and drove to the end of the road, before we realised our inability to distinguish whether we were going North, South, East or West.  Attempting to sound intelligent, I told Samantha, 'the sun rises in the East, so we should be able to work it out'.  Sounding far more intelligent, she pointed out that the sun was actually overhead, in the center of the sky, so my plan was hardly foolproof! Eventually, thanks to the power of the GPS, we headed in the right direction.  Unfortunately, the nice lady in the box gave us the instructions a mile before we needed to make a turn.  'Turn left....', she told me, and I drove around the corner.  '....In a mile', she continued.  'Do a U-turn', she suggested.  When I did not obey immediately, the suggestion became a demand! 

Four Corners was well sign posted, quite fascinating.  We had left New Mexico and entered Arizona, then came back into New Mexico, before getting to the Monument.  We were jumping in and out of the car for photo opportunities.  I had swapped my boots for flip flops, and was conscious of indigenous creatures.  Snakes, spiders and scorpions love the undergrowth, and the signs were set well within the 'brush'.  We finally arrived at the actual point where all four states meet, which is marked with a small silver circle.  We had our picture taken in a 'twister' style, and were in four states at one time. There was little more to do, other than skip in and out of each one, to the amazement of small, onlooking, children, as well as adults, who were pushing for their off springs to 'do that!'  We left leaving several infants attempting to untangle their limbs, and return to their respective parents, while we jumped over the 'state' lines which were separated by darker stones, and chose not to be in the same state at the same time.  It is much more fun to be a child as an adult!  We left the scene and drove towards Utah.  As a teenager, I was not au fait with all the States, but with the help of the Osmond Brothers, we had all heard of one beginning with 'U'.  As a teenager, I think I would have thought I had died and gone to heaven, being in the same state as Donny and the guys; As an adult, it was added to my list of state visited as number 35!  We had driven through State 34, which was Colorado.  It was not hard to find the 'Mexican Hat', which was the other monument on our list of 'things to do', on Friday.  Most of the directions were, 'drive 34 miles then turn left, drive 48 miles and it is on your right'.  The roads just went on, and on.  The topography was incredible. 

Our trip back to Farmington was not too difficult.  We drove for miles and miles, and then turned left at Shiprock.  Dana and Edward were going out for dinner, and to 'party', which apparently meant they were going to eat, and go home.  However, although the directions were not taxing, some of the roads were winding and narrow.  There would be a long, straight section, but then, as they turned, we saw the sheer drop to the side.  Keeping my eyes on the road were not a problem, and Samantha's constant picture taking assured me that there were more than pretty trees on the side of the road.  Deep ravines are her speciality.  My cries of, 'we are going to die', fell on deaf ears, and she continued to click the button on her camera.  We had set the GPS to go directly to the restaurant Si Senor, which had been recommended by my friend who asked, 'Farmington.  On purpose?'  It looked very nice from the outside.  We had seen signs for a Prime Rib Buffet, at a casino, but it appears the sign was approximately 70 miles from the location, so we decided Mexican food would be acceptable.  I called Dana before we left the car, and he told me that my friend had 'lied'.  She had made a mistake, and whilst Si Senor was very nice, her recommendation of somewhere, in her opinion, that was better, was Los Hermanitos.  It was 'just around the corner'. 

Dinner was very nice.  Unfortunately, as we had not eaten since breakfast, we filled up on chips and salsa, and the Fajitas, although delicious, were just too much for me to handle.  Samantha found the same with her World Famous Breakfast Burrito.  Our return to the hotel took just a few minutes, and we collapsed after our ceremonial cleaning of the room, without finishing another row of our knitting.  Samantha did make a trip to the reception, as we had less than two sheets of toilet paper left on the roll, but we were advised that we would have to wait until morning.  Fortunately there were plenty of tissues! 

The original plan of going to the Grand Canyon on Saturday, was thwarted, when we found the four and a half hour drive, would only take us to the edge, and we would have to allow another hour and a half to see anything remotely, 'wow' like.  This did mean that we did not have to get up at 6am, in order to get on the road and return at a decent hour.  Instead, we decided to see some ancient ruins, and then drive to Colorado, and seek out the Saturday Prime Rib Buffet. Samantha made a trip to reception while I had a shower, but the toilet paper was still inaccessible.  It was, fortunately, hand delivered to our room shortly before we left. Breakfast was interesting.  The waffle irons sat waiting for us to pour the batter.  Samantha, somewhat proficient, and taking charge, attempted to fill the cup, but the mixture trickled out, and stopped.  Disappointed, but convinced we arrived too late, at 7:45am, (breakfast is 7am to 10am) I asked the receptionist if she could refill the dispenser.  Samantha did not share my embarrassment, when she told us it was full, and I was not doing it properly!  The waffles were worth the wait.  We ate yogurt and cereal, and fruit. We left with a hard boiled egg, a bagel, a muffin and two apples.  After taking a trip to Walmart for some official souvenirs, we went to the Aztec Ruins, then on to the Salmon Estate, where the volunteer at the desk dispelled the myth that was the history lesson we had received at the Aztec Ruins!  Thoroughly frustrated, Samantha returned to the car, wondering why archaeologists have to 'make replicas', rather than just leave the ruins as they are found.  How did they know 'this bowl was probably used for boiling spinach'? 

We travelled north, back through Shiprock, and on to Colorado, in search of the Prime Rib Buffet and casino that provided it.  The directions were quite simple.  Turn left and drive for about 30 miles, then turn right, and drive another 30.  Once again, the GPS became redundant.  I ate my apple, while Samantha buttered her bagel, on the move, and shelled the boiled egg.  We mislaid the second apple, but it was not essential!  We pulled up outside the Ute Mountain casino, and Samantha found a phone number for me to see if we were at the right place. After confirming that the person on the end of the phone was in the casino that served the $7.95 prime rib buffet, I had to confirm we were actually in the correct car park.  'Where are you located?' I asked.  The receptionist's response of 'um, um, um', caused me to question, 'How do you get to work?'  She responded with 'um, um, hold on, I will ask someone'.  It seemed the best way to confirm was to go inside and ask someone at the desk.  The desk clerk confirmed that dinner would be served at 5pm, and they did, indeed, have the prime rib buffet.  Samantha and I had an hour and a half to spare.  We looked at each other, looked at the one armed bandits, and looked back at each other, and both said $5!  As we entered the 'no-smoking' lounge, we headed for the 1cent machines, and after using the restroom, and helping ourselves to a complimentary soda, we put in our first dollar.  Unfortunately, after 90 minutes, Samantha had lost two dollars, but I was winning, and cashed out with a dollar profit!  Last of the big spenders.  We went to the restaurant, and found out that despite being told, twice, that they served the prime rib buffet, they omitted to suggest we book!  There would be at least an hour's wait, as everyone had only just taken a seat.  The queue for the carving station was almost back to New Mexico!  We decided not to wait.  We had enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon, gambling, and would be back in Farmington before it was dark.  Before we left, we took a bag of complimentary popcorn, and a Dr. Pepper for the journey.  We travelled 30 miles along the road, back into New Mexico, and then turned left at Shiprock, and went another 30 miles.  The route was becoming very familiar! 

As we made a final turn onto the road that housed our hotel, we saw a sign for 'Prime Rib' at the hotel opposite.  After filling up the car so that we would not have to worry in the morning, we parked up, and walked across to the restaurant.  Dinner was delicious.  Although it was not a buffet, there was a never ending salad and fruit bar, and soup.  The best part was that we did not have to drive for an hour, on a full stomach, to get back to the hotel!  We got back to our room, got into our beds, watched 'Big' on one of the '30 complimentary HD' channels, and knitted for a while.

Sunday morning started at 6:45am, and we left the room for breakfast at 7, both wearing our 'We've been to Utah' (The original We've going to Utah t-shirts had been adapted, and Samantha had crossed out 'going', and written in 'been'.) I was slightly anxious about getting to the airport on time as we were unable to check in for the first flight.  I had called United Airlines on Saturday, and explained that we were unable to check in on line.  The helpful assistant checked us into our seats from Denver to Austin, but said she could not access the Great Lakes sight. Perhaps we could call them.  I told her that it wasn't a plane, it was actually a bus with wings, and I certainly didn't want an exit seat!  We had no need to worry about time, as it took us less than ten minutes to arrive, and found that as long as we were at the desk 20 minutes before departure, there was no problem!  The boarding pass was like a receipt, on a thin piece of paper. We could take a step forward to check in at the desk, or a step back, and return the car keys to the Avis counter.  There was a small cafe, which was filled to capacity, as three people sat at tables, and sipped their coffee.  The ten people who were waiting to fly back to Denver, only just outnumbered the staff, who all doubled up on their duties.  The person who issued the boarding passes, collected them at the gate, and then directed the plane to the runway, with the orange sticks.  There were two gates.  An 'in' and 'out' so to speak!  We went through security, and sat for five minutes, while the other eight passengers passed through. 

I was slightly less anxious when boarding the tiny plane for the second time.  Our take off, and landing was a little shakey, but the views were, once again, spectacular.  We exited the plane just after our bags, and ran to the connecting gate.  I did not realise that we were running late, and when Samantha asked if I could not go any faster, I was a little flustered.  My earlier cup of coffee had gone 'right through' me, and when I suggested I could run much faster after the bathroom, she said, 'we don't have time!'  The area around our gate was empty.  A representative stood by the closed door, and Samantha pleaded, 'Are we too late?'  She sighed, opened the door, and said, 'Boarding pass'.  We did not have a boarding pass.  We were unable to print them at the hotel, and the airport at Farmington could only print those for our first flight.  I have never entered a plane without a physical boarding pass before!  Samantha could have retrieved them on her phone, but as we were the only two customers that were not on the plane, they allowed us to board.  Unresponsive to the demand, 'sit down and fasten your seatbelt', I ran to the end of the plane and occupied the 'smallest room'. 

Our flight back was uneventful.  We sat with our picnic.  The mislaid apple had reappeared, and we placed it with the muffin, two eggs, and bagel on the tray table, along with the banana, and knitted some more, then arrived back in Austin on time. Samantha pressed the side of my neck as we landed, and informed me that she had 'switched me' back on!  Dana was reading a newspaper on the opposite side of the escalators when we exited at the security gate.  He only jumped slightly when walked up behind him, and asked, 'Can you give us a lift 'ome, guvnor?' 

It was a wonderful weekend, with no altercations!  We went for lunch, and our waiter asked, 'Have you been to Utah'.  We said we had and chatted for a while.  'Are y'all from there?', he asked again.  'Oh yes', I replied.  Can't you tell from the Utah'ian accent?'  He was convinced!  I was quite exhausted when my head hit the pillow, and was not looking forward to an extra long day at work on Monday.  Dana was going to the Capitol for another committee 'hearing', to testify against a bill that was number 20 on the list, the first of which would probably not be heard before 3:30!  Samantha and I discussed the possibility of another trip next year, and made a short list.  Our sales pitch to Dana and Edward may be........another story.

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