Now that I am fully vaccinated, I wanted to somewhat escape my (our) current reality and this new normal even just for one week. The thought of no longer becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 made me feel a like celebrating during the second week after taking my second shot (when I am officially considered "fully vaccinated") with my love of travel and new experiences. I have long been the type of person that would rather spend my money on experiences and learning something new rather than buying expensive material things.
I wanted to try Native American food or have really good pizza in Arizona, but I saw the Rudy's BBQ sign on the freeway, so I had to stop here instead. I absolutely loooooove their sides. Rudy's was part of my trips of Austin, Texas when I would visit for 5 consecutive years. My colleague thought their barbecue was "good enough," but their sides were amazing! None of the top barbecue places in Texas we tried had sides like this!
The following morning, I visited Carlsbad Caverns. You must pre-book before visiting. During Covid times, most places don't let people in without advanced reservations and tickets so you need to be strategic when planning your vacations especially at indoor settings like a cave or museums. If you don't, you will be sadly disappointed that you won't be able to see these places. Research and reserve weeks or months in advance. I met people who could not get tickets into Carlsbad Caverns. This is one of the main attractions in New Mexico and I would be sad if I drove all this way and made the mistake of not making my reservation in advance.
Can you see my thrill and excitement in my eyes? I was so happy to finally visit this cave which is one of the largest in the world. I went straight into the Big Room, which is "the best" chamber at Carlsbad Caverns if you're limited on time. Big Room is almost 4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m) high at its highest point for some perspective. The Big Room is the largest chamber in North America and the thirty-first largest in the world. The immense size of the cave underground was a lot to take in. You can take the hike down or go straight to it by taking an elevator. I wanted to explore all day, but there was still so much to see in New Mexico. I believe your ticket grants you admission for 3 days inside the Caverns. I timed this visit to be on an early weekday to avoid crowds. There was hardly anyone along my path and it was very quiet inside.
That pen clipped on my shirt? That's my pepper spray to protect me from possible "Asian hate" during my trip. Luckily I had no use for it. Everyone was so kind -- the locals and the fellow travelers I had conversations with along the way. After Carlsbad Caverns, I wanted to hike and 2 locals recommended Guadalupe Mountains (also a national park) as their favorite hike. It is located nearby in Texas. I took the hike to the springs as that was the recommend hike. Silly me. I thought I could fit in White Sands National Monument, but I underestimated drive time between each attraction.
Cloudcroft Brewing Company - a great place to buy canned beer from different local breweries. Even if I am vaccinated, I'm not ready to take my mask off. Enjoyed the beer -- pickle beer! --- in my motel room. I bought so many to bring back home as a gift someone was kind to walk me out with all the beer I bought.
The reason I stayed the night in Cloudcroft was to have some Central Texas barbecue. Some Texans told me that Mad Jack's barbecue is better than any of the places in Lockhart, Texas where he is from. Employees at Franklin BBQ told me the best barbecue is found at Smitty's in Lockhart which I've tasted before. Pitmaster James Jackson said that he has never tasted Franklin Barbecue, but someone I met in line told me Mad Jack's is better than all of the barbecue joints in Austin and Lockhart -- including Franklin BBQ. Pitmaster James is self taught and spoke to Aaron Franklin for advice.
I wanted you to see the kind of places I usually stay at. I like low (clean) budget motels with character. This is the Silver Saddle Motel in Santa Fe, New Mexico away from the tourist zone and close to great restaurants and craft breweries. The other places I stayed at were budget motels with great reviews, but nothing charming about them. I really like parking my car near my room during road trips. That is why I prefer them on road trips. And yes, I bring my own bed sheets, a HEPA air filter, a hot water kettle, and tea bags. I am not in a luxurious hotel, but I still have the conveniences of a bathroom and television. The close proximity to my car is key! The Silver Saddle Motel was my home base while I explored Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and northern New Mexico. I figured staying in one place would decrease my exposure to COVID-19 and make it easier by only disinfecting once.
I always research "where chefs eat" when I travel and one local chef loves the breakfast burritos at Sunrise Family Restaurant. It seems like a very "locals only" spot. I ordered my breakfast burrito with chorizo "Christmas style" -- half red and half green chili. Apparently the breakfast burrito was invented in New Mexico so it was on my "must try" list. They asked me if I wanted to hold it and I told him to do whatever you want to it.
I will stress the importance of advanced reservations before traveling during COVID-19. I was not able to get tickets to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, so I settled for the next best thing... the better thing! I decided to visit her home and inspiration for her paintings for about 40 years! She traveled between New York City and her home here in Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. I can see why she fell in love with the New Mexican landscape. You can take a hike in Ghost Ranch, but you cannot visit her home which is operated by the museum for scheduled tours. I took the easy, but scenic hike and walked through the labrynth.
If you haven't been part of the United States, it's definitely worth exploring. The food is different, the people are friendlier... so to me, an enjoyable travel experience. If you're able to bring a high clearance vehicle, it would allow you explore places I couldn't with my car. I wanted to visit the UNESCO Chaco Culture Historic Park or the New Mexico badlands, but that would require a vehicle that can handle unpaved roads really well. I recommend planning a "must see" list and find out if you need advanced reservations months in advance and definitely buying a National Parks annual pass for free admission and parking at our national parks and in places like Sedona.
Follow my adventures on Instagram.
Hello, I'm Anne.
I love exploring Los Angeles like a tourist. I have as much fun in my hometown as I do traveling outside LA or another country. I hope my adventures inspire you to eat well and travel often!
Build wealth: Invest in real estate
Traveling Notary Public Service