a USA top 8 list

USA Top 8
Road tripping is a USA must

i am a crab. i am so crabby about the united states it’s not even funny. despite a more or less wonderful trip to the US this past month, i still have not a good word to lay down about it and am constantly compelled to complain about the place. in an effort to affront this tendency and look on the brighter side, i’ve decided to compile a top 8 list of great things we did on our august holidays in the states. how ‘bout that?

8. drinks on the patio

one of my favorite new mexico past times, when summer rolls around, you absolutely MUST have a drink on the patio. in fact, you should probably have two or three drinks. everyday. with the sweet pink and orange hues of sunset cradling you and a perfect bottle of california zinfandel to share among friends or family, bliss calls. we did this at my aunt & uncle’s house, which has, in my opinion, the single best patio in the whole state. barring that, i recommend sitting down for margaritas at the cantina at the coyote cafe (where they also have great food. can you say mole tacos?). alternatively, the ore house, a veritable institution on the santa fe plaza, has a tequila cabinet to be reckoned with and a top-rated wine cellar. and where else can you people-watch the skaters, tourists and plaza bums from on high?

7. bandelier national monument

i’m right in the middle of writing a feature on bandelier for the circumference, so i’ll cut my rantings here short. bandelier national monument is a new mexico staple and if you’re at all interested in learning about native american cultures or seeing firsthand some leftovers of prehistory, go to bandelier. the main loop trail is an easy-cheesy walk (i would not even call it a hike) that takes about an hour. we stumbled in at 4pm, there were no lines for parking and everything had that soft afternoon desert glow.

6. road trip

what more quintessentially american activity is there than the road trip? a way to see the countryside while wasting inordinate amounts of petrol and stuffing your face with bad fast food? you’ve just gotta. we took two road journeys on this trip – one between new mexico and colorado and one between new mexico and texas. i’ve done a lot of road trippin’ in my time, and have driven those two particular lengths of road so often they make my eyes bleed. but being there with bill and now as a tourist in my own country, the highway took on a whole different vibe. we stopped to smell the roses, photograph trains and take in the vast landscape. we took touristy pictures of ourselves at state border signs and honked the horn when we crossed. we blasted loud, early 90s rock music and rolled the windows down as bugs splattered against our windscreen and the road blurred in front of us with heat waves.

there is nothing like an american road trip. you must.

5. billy the kid’s grave

on one of our many road trips, we chanced in to a spot i’d passed at least a hundred times and ne’er bothered to stop: billy the kid’s grave. nestled out in a tiny cemetery among the farm fields of a backwater nowhere town called fort sumner, that infamous teenage outlaw is buried. surely, this type of americana is the type of true treasure that you can happen upon when driving through the united states. it turns out billy the kid’s headstone was actually stolen and reclaimed several times before it was finally returned to his tombsite in fort sumner. also, for the record, in the town of fort sumner, there is a ‘billy the kid museum’ that charges $5 to see some letters and other outlaw paraphernalia – you’re better off just driving the 2.5 miles southeast of town to the actual gravesite, which is free in.

4. hollywood, baby

okay, i was 15 the last time i was in hollywood, during a church youth group mission trip when i was a freshman in high school. seriously. back then (ah, the good ole days!), hollywood was grimy and crime-ridden and pretty… well… gross. our little 6 hour outing from LAX between domestic and international flights proved that hollywood has changed. the glistening “new” kodak theater (it’s actually been open since 2001) is surrounded by multi-storey shopping malls, bubbling fountains, disney-esque cafes and smoothie shops and, of course, starbucks.

they even have a super nifty viewing platform to take in the hollywood sign from its most flattering angle. mind you, just a couple of blocks up, the junction of hollywood blvd. and vine st., once a mecca for movie production offices and record companies, still retains a 1980s grit with an abundance of pickpockets, druggies and general vagrants soiling the once-glimmering names along the immortal walk of fame.

but of course the true best moment of our trip to hollywood was finding johnny depp’s hand prints at grauman’s chinese theater.

3. santa fe opera

i’m not a huge opera lover, but bill has taken in opera at several of the world’s finest operahouses, including verona, and when he saw santa fe opera listed as one of the top places to see and hear opera on earth, he couldn’t resist. it was my birthday gift to him. and the fact of the matter was, i’d never actually seen an opera performed at the SFO, despite the fact that it is in my own hometown.

we scored tickets to a great opera: mozart’s don giovanni, a lively story of heartache, lust and love. it was a perfect santa fe evening and, like the true locals that we are, we managed to get it together to tailgate. bringing lavish picnics of champagne, caviar, hors d’oevres (i had to google that to spell it right ha!), these chi-chi opera-goers eat dinner out of the backs of their cars and get shitfaced on wine before the opera starts.

all of this was a good idea except for the getting shitfaced part because, halfway through the actual performance, i was ready to fall asleep despite it being a brilliant opera. anyway – the SFO is an open-air covered opera house and it was absolutely spectacular to watch the scene unfold (with fancy in-seat surtitles) as the evening fell.

2. pagosa hot springs

i did a whole feature on the pagosa hot springs for the circumference entitled ‘take a healing soak in the pagosa hot springs’. but suffice it to say that this is undoubtedly one of the most relaxing, under appreciated spots in the whole of the american southwest. bill and i soaked until midnight, enjoyed the variety of pools at different temperatures while the clear colorado sky reflected stars above us. a total romantic spot – go if you need to get away. oh, and if you’ve got time and a little extra cash, splurge to stay in the actual springs resort, which gives you free 24-hour access to all the pools. delish.

1. high school reunion

down with the naysayers that poo-poo going to one’s high school reunion. you know the types? the ones that say “aw screw that, i don’t want to see any of those people again. i hated high school.” blah. blah. blah. my response to that: grow up! we had a BLAST at my 10 year high school reunion, held in the not-so-sweet town of lubbock, texas, a place i spent way too much time between the ages of 15 and 17.

the reunion was exactly what a high school reunion should be, complete with cheesy hellos, bad dancing, grumbling from the former nerds, rah-rahing from the former cheerleaders and general high school goodness. we drank, we ate a hearty texas meal, we got caught up with old friends and learned something about people we hadn’t known well back then, we reminisced. i even won an itunes gift card for having travelled the farthest to get there – a mere 8,000 miles.

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