Becoming Whole

The last few months of freedom have been amazing and I’m grateful for every minute. That said, after being on the road so long I was kind of ready to get back to a more grounded life. I got settled in the condo, unpacked, decorated and checked out all the local farmer’s markets. But this is still the real world and I’ve got to get back to work like everybody else. Honestly, I’m ready and I can’t wait. There are so many possibilities. There is one job I’ve had my eye on for a long time. One that I knew would be the first step in becoming whole again. Today, I started a job at Whole Foods.

First Day at Whole Foods

Not Surprised

Anyone who knows me will probably not be surprised that this is what I chose. I LOVE food, but I ABSOLUTELY LOVE grocery shopping. So I applied for a job as an online shopper. I was afraid they wouldn’t take me seriously because my resume doesn’t exactly line me up for this, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Fix Your Face

I went straight to the store after I submitted my application. I walked up to customer service and asked to speak to the person who oversees the in-store shoppers.

The customer service girl played nice and said she’d call him. I stood to the side. She called.

Customer service girl – “He’s at lunch.”

Me – “No problem. I’ve got some shopping to do. I’ll just hang out ’til he gets done.”

Customer service girl – (fix your face). It’s like I was speaking Greek. Apparently prospective applicants don’t come in-person very often.

If You’re Not Nervous, You Don’t Want It

I did a little shopping. And then I went to check out. Stopped by the customer service desk again.

She remembered me. She was non-committal on getting the manager to come out and meet me.

No problem. If I don’t get him today, I’ll be back tomorrow. LOL. She has no idea who she’s dealing with.

And then, he came out.

I had this crazy moment of nerves where I forgot my name and then realized I was also wearing no makeup and had my hair in pigtails (still hanging on to my road trip look).

If you’re not nervous, you don’t really want it.

Acceptance

We talked. He was super nice. Turns out they have plenty of openings. Turns out there are a lot of people that don’t like to do their own grocery shopping.

“Our online shopper team is about 70 people. We have flexible shifts anytime from 4am to 1030pm.”

You’ve got to be (expletive) kidding me.

Grocery shopping is one of my favorite sports. Especially at Whole Foods. There are always new things to check out, surprises in the pre-prepared food bar. The pandemic stole the beauty of cheese samples, but that’s ok. Just make friends with the cheese monger. Those guy have beards and they know their curd.

Cheese at Whole Foods

The idea of not wanting to go pick out your own food is foreign to me.

“So you’re saying you’ll pay me to do something I love?”

They hired me.

Wait, What?

What I did NOT know until I did my onboarding is that employees get 20% off groceries.

What??

I nearly cried. Then I had a minute where I was totally pissed off that I didn’t know that about ten years ago because I’d have gotten a part time job at Whole Foods then. And saved a BOATLOAD of money since.

All Good Things Are From The 80’s

Whole Foods started in Austin, Texas in 1980. Long before Elon decided Austin was cool. There were 4 humans that decided natural foods were ready for the supermarket format.

Click the image to read the story of how Whole Foods got started

Couple of high-school drop outs partnered with another couple to get it started. Click the image above for the story – it’s awesome. They got booted out of their apartment and had to use a dishwasher to shower.

Floodwaters

Less than a year after the store opened, the worst flood in over 70 years hits Austin.

My onboarding videos spent a good amount of time on this event. For those of you who went through Katrina and Ida with me, I think it will resonate. They lost everything and expected to go bankrupt.

But the community came out. The employees came out. The vendors came out. And they all worked for free to pitch in, clean up and get the place back open.

Geauxing to NOLA

I totally would have thought that Whole Foods got going in states like California where people were more willing to pay a premium for organic or natural foods.

Did you know that after Austin, Whole Foods expanded to Dallas and Houston but that the first store outside of Texas was New Orleans? LOL. Who-Dats, who’d have thunk it!

Whole & Proud

I learned a lot on my first day. I had to get a California Food Handler’s Card which indicates that you’ve been through the state’s food safety training. It was a 2 hour online course and it was very informative. I passed the test with 97% (I missed 1 question but only because it was worded weird and I didn’t understand what they were asking).

California Food Handler Card

Whole Standards

Did you know that Whole Foods doesn’t allow food with over 275 different non-essential or low-quality ingredients in their stores?

In other words, if you care about what ingredients go into your food, you don’t have to bother reading labels. Whole Foods just screens those products out. Just shop.

And they support local farm. And local product lines.

Can’t Kelp It

While I was shopping to kill time, I came across this precious young girl that was setting up a product demo in the refrigerated foods section.

Y’all, I love sales. She looked TERRIFIED. I had to help her out. I made eye contact.

“Do you want to try some Maine kelp salad?”

She was PURPLE.

LOL. It’s her lucky day.

What are the chances that any other customer in the store at that moment understands what it’s like to be new at sales, loves Maine AND is willing to eat kelp?

Atlantic Sea Farms Kelp Salad

She had a nice little display showing Maine fisherman harvesting kelp. She gave me a sample and it literally tasted like someone had picked it out of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a flood of nostalgia for me.

Of course I bought some.

It’s interesting. If you love fermented stuff like kimchi or kombucha, you need to give this a try. I’ve got to imagine if they stock in in Del Mar, California that it’s also available in Whole Food’s stores closer to New England. Plop some tuna poke on top. Not sure it’s gonna go global, but it’s worth a try.

In fact, if you try it, I’ve got a $50 Amazon gift card for the person who sends me the best way to use this product. I totally want this product to succeed, but it needs a little imagination. Tell me in the comments or email me at followfrittata@gmail.com.

The Search Isn’t Over

I absolutely love this job. I can’t wait to go to work.

But sadly, it isn’t going to pay the bills here in California. It will barely pay my car payment actually.

I’m still on the search for something full time. I’m applying for all kinds of crazy things. I love interviewing almost as much as I love grocery shopping, so those stories are coming soon!

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From Sea to Shining Sea

Last November, I sold most of what I owned and packed what was left of my most prized possessions into a POD. I drove away from the past 2 decades that I’d spent in Louisiana and hit the road. I headed east with a plan to eventually settle in my beloved Florida. But the universe had a different plan. I was called to go West. So I set out from Florida and drove across the country, from sea to shining sea.

My destination was Del Mar, California, but I didn’t take the short route. I drove down through the Florida Everglades and up the eastern seaboard to our nation’s capital. Drove west through the Alleghany Mountains to the Great Lakes, then south to Ozarks. North by northwest through the Golden Belt. Further west and then south through the sacred heartlands of Native American tribes.

I arrived safely just 100 yards from the great blue Pacific ocean on June 3, 2022.

Selfie after crossing the border into California.

Driving Emotions

My final drive from Sedona, Arizona to Del Mar, California was about a 7 hour journey and I’m not ashamed to say I shed tears of pride and joy a good part of the way. This was an experience that I will never forget, and as I stated on the travel page of Frittata, “much of who we are depends on where we have been”.

The picture above was a selfie I took when I crossed the border into California.

5024 Miles Driven

About halfway through the drive, I found myself having breakfast with a good friend in Wichita, Kansas. “You need to draw a map when you’re done to see how many miles you’ve gone, ” she said.

Here’s your map Nikky!

Frittata Cross Country Drive 2022

Racing Trains

I have an increased respect for those whose job it is to move stuff around our great land.

There was more than one time on this journey where I found myself racing freight trains as I cruised along long stretches of empty road.

Next time you grab a piece of toilet paper, or order something on Amazon, take a moment to be thankful for both the long-haul truckers and the train engineers who are moving your stuff and making it possible. Someone spends a lot of long and lonely hours on the road. Never take it for granted.

Long Haul drivers

The Fence

My route from Sedona took me down and along our border with Mexico. For miles and miles I just thought about what it would be like to be desperate enough to try to cross on foot. I saw the fence. It seemed so ridiculous when you consider the terrain.

Imperial Desert Sand Dunes

I crossed through the Imperial Valley and the Sonoran Desert. Blinding sand dunes for miles and miles, then endless mountains and valleys of volcanic rock. Virtually impassable by foot. At one point there was a sign on the highway that said, “turn of A/C to prevent engine overheating”. There were water stations every few miles for people to use if they overheated. A bit sobering even after all the long and desolate drives I’d conquered.

Familiar Faces

Not gonna lie, I was a little nervous when I arrived at my new condo. I rented it sight unseen. But when I walked inside, I knew I was home.

Reunited

After 7 months of living with other peoples’ stuff and in other peoples’ spaces, I could not wait to see my own stuff again.

I had the time of my life reuniting with my favorite things. When I packed this POD, I had no intention of letting it sit in storage that long nor did I pack it as if I was moving across the country.

But not one single thing was damaged. Not even a layer of dust. It was like I’d just packed it all yesterday.

Just Enough Stuff

I did NOT find the killer air mattress that I could have sworn I’d packed for this moment when I opened that POD. Thank God for the super thick foam mattress topper that I did keep because that is going to be my bed for a while.

Super excited to get my girls out of storage. These ladies are suited up and thrilled that their new home includes a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Check out this super cool retro microwave! I found in on Amazon and all the reviews said it was a fire hazard. So I didn’t buy it. But I needed a microwave, and when I went to Lowe’s to buy some other stuff, guess what I found?

Only one left. The exact color I wanted. Fingers crossed!

Galanz retro micro – so far, so good

Matchy Matchy

Needed a coffee maker. I’ve become a fan of Keurig over the course of my travels.

It matches the microwave 🙂

People, tell me this – is there ANYTHING better than a perfect cup of coffee, just the way you like it, that you can make yourself in less than 2 minutes without getting out of your pjs???

Electrifying Coincidence?

If there is one thing not to love about California, it would be the gas prices. Not even gonna tell you what $7/gallon costs to fill a Range Rover. Small heart attack.

Elon Musk is killing it here. No joke, I would bet 1 in 3 cars is a Tesla. Not hard to understand why. Even with the steep price tag it pays for itself in gas savings pretty quick.

As it turns out, I put a deposit on this baby about a year ago. Rivian is a new electric car manufacturer.

Rivian R1S

Click the image above to check them out. They partnered with Ford originally but I think that fell through. I read that Amazon is buying 100,000 vans from them over the next few years.

Fingers cross that I get on the 2022 delivery list! It’s supposed to put Range Rover out of business. Fingers crossed that I also find a job that will help me buy it 🙂

Out To Pasture

On the short list of things to do during my first few days was to check out the local farmer’s market. This, too, has been a surprising disappointment.

For all of my friends in Louisiana who are farmer’s, know this – the Covington Farmer’s Market is a gem. I have yet to find it’s equal on my travels. As with most “farmer’s markets”, what I have found so far in California is a lot of soap makers and gluten-free bread bakers but very very few farmers.

Shockingly I have only found ONE vendor that raises bees and sells local honey. I’ve got a friend at Wild Woods Apiary that needs to set up an outpost. There’s money to be made and plants to pollinate.

Definitely no Mauthe’s hand-stirred chocolate milk. No thick cut bacon.

I also was sort of hopeful that, being so close to Mexico, avocados would be like 50 cents. Nope. Just as expensive as there are everywhere else.

The Good News

While there are some sacrifices to West Coast living, there are plenty of highlights.

Retail, people. Food.

Need furniture?

West Elm? Crate & Barrel? Ikea? Joybird? They’re all here folks. Drive up and walk right in.

Need poke? Ok. There’s one on every corner. How about some chana masala and saag? No problem.

Need ramen? It’s right next door.

Fresh veggie juices? Vegan burgers? Ceviche?

There are 5 organic mega-supermarkets in less than 5 minutes from my condo. I’m considering a part-time job as a shopper for Whole Food’s online service. Met with the manager today. They employ 70 people just for that store.

Home Cooking

I’ll be taking advantage of all the food options soon enough. But after this long on the road, my soul is thrilled to be back in my own kitchen.

It’s Ok To Look Back

When I look back at the past 2 and a half years since our world changed in a way no one could have ever expected, I feel mixed emotions. There were hard times, but there was also much to be proud of.

Dream Big.

A move like this requires one to take a pretty big leap of faith. If I can do it, so can you.

COVID-19 was a huge wake-up call in so many of our lives.

Slow down. Smell the roses. Watch the birds. Taste the food. Dream big. Believe.

January 2020, Carefree Arizona with my bestie before we had ever heard of COVID-19

If you’ve felt the pull to make a change, stop waiting. The best way to measure whether you are fulfilling your intended destiny is to check in with how you feel. Your emotions won’t lie. If your job or something else in your life makes you tired, sucks the life out of you more than it energizes you, make a change. Start today.

Hopeful Horizons

For those of you who have been keeping up with my adventures, I sincerely thank you. I genuinely felt your presence and support along this journey. It made the trip all the more worthwhile.

Tomorrow I start looking for work. I am hopeful and excited about what lies just beyond the horizons that I can see today. I have no doubt that this is where I’m supposed to be right now, and that this is not the end of the adventures I’ll be sharing with you.

From Sea: Inlet Beach, Florida
To Shining Sea: Pacific Ocean, Del Mar, California

From Sea To Shining Sea

America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

By Katherine Lee Bates; (1859-1929) Inspired by a trip to Pikes Peak in 1893, Katherine Lee Bates
wrote the poem America the Beautiful. Her poem first appeared in print on July 4, 1895 in The
Congregationalist, a weekly journal. Ms. Bates revised the lyrics in 1904 and again in 1913.

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Arriving At The Vortex

Cathedral Rock, Sedona Arizona

Welcome to Sedona, Arizona! For those who have not been here, this is a pretty magical place. Sedona is famous for being one of the locations on this earth that is a center of our planet’s health and spiritual energy, otherwise known as a vortex. I thought it was the perfect last stop before my final sprint into California.

My morning drive from Santa Fe, New Mexico began at sunrise as usual. Take a look at this route across all the lands that still belong to the Native American tribes. So awesome. It was very sparse for the majority of the route and then transitioned to a more mountainous area as I approached Flagstaff.

On my drive out of Kansas, I passed through No Man’s Land. On this drive, I passed through the official “Middle of Nowhere”.

A Country Divided

Every continent except Antarctica has a continental divide. It’s the geographical place defined as a boundary between river systems that drain into different seas or basins. In other words, it’s a ridged area and if rain falls on one side it drains one way and if it falls on the other side it drains a different way.

First stop in Arizona was just north of Sedona at Oak Creek Vista. Got a bird’s eye view of Oak Creek Canyon, the Grand Canyon’s little sister, that I was about to descend into.

It was a nice little rest stop but was nothing compared to what lay ahead.

Red Rock and Roll!

A few switchback roads later and this is the view:

It was almost impossible to drive because the scenery was just so spectacular and I wanted to stop and take pictures. I did get a break where there were no other cars behind me so that I could snag a little video for you:

It’s a hiking lovers dream come true. There are trails of all shapes and sizes. I heard a local say there are over 500 trails in Sedona alone.

Let’s get settled in so we can get out there!

Lite lunch at 89Agave

French Influence In Sedona?

I burned the last of my hard earned credit card points on L’Auberge de Sedona (French for “The Inn”) which is in the center of town but tucked down by the creek in it’s own magical little universe. The property was the definition of tranquility and serenity.

My room was actually an independent cabin with an outdoor shower and it’s own private deck. It also had the best soaking tub EVER in a hotel room (excluding Art Maison Oia Castle in Santorini which actually had it’s own indoor cave pool). It filled up fast, was perfectly contoured and had a little bath rack that held a large wine glass, a book stand and a little pottery filled with the hotel’s signature fragranced bath salts.

Indian Name

I’m going to give the hotel an Indian name. I’d call it “Place Where The Hummingbirds Play”. I took a short stroll down to the creek at dusk and discovered a family of hummingbirds (not sure which kind because I left the binoculars in the room) hovering in perfect suspended stillness above the water waiting for microscopic bugs to rise up in the mist.

They were also behaving like swallows. Swallows will cruise in over water and touch down just enough to dip their beaks in the water without landing and then they glide back upwards. I’ve never really seen a hummingbird do that, but there they were.

Don’t Be Shy

The first photographed bird of this stop was actually kind of exciting. Meet the phainopepla. Most bird names came from the British naturalists that studied them but this name is about the strangest I’ve come across yet.

male phainopepla

I had seen one of these unique birds during a hike at the Golden Door, but I had no camera with me. A flock was getting ready to roost when I found them. They were very shy, but I got a shot of he and his girlfriend.

Female phainopepla

I had to wait them out until they perched somewhere that I could get a shot. The light was diminishing by the minute. But before the light was totally gone, there was time to get a few shots of this:

From The Top

My time in Sedona was dedicated primarily to visiting the 4 vortex areas and getting some hiking in. I started at the Airport Mesa, which as it sounds is at the top of a mesa next to an airport. This one was kind of like cheating because I didn’t actually hike unless you count the 20 steps it took to get from my car to this view:

Thunder Mountain from Airport Mesa
Coffee Pot

It’s kind of funny that each rock formation has a name. This one is called Coffee Pot. I tried hard, but in most cases I just didn’t see it. Does that look like a coffee pot to you?

I think part of the magic of experiencing the energy of Sedona is to see what you see in each formation and make up your own names. It’s like watching the clouds while lying on your back at the beach.

I did want to share one picture that I attempted to take in honor of our veteran’s and Memorial Day:

Taking It To Church

My next stop was a visit to Cathedral Rock. I planned to hike toward the vortex of it. I started in Crescent Moon park and followed a footpath that led in toward Oak Creek. It was a sweet little area with lots of nooks and crannies where you could spread out a blanket and just picnic for a while.

Cathedral Rock

Again, I struggled to see what prompted the name “Cathedral Rock” but then I had sort of a religious experience and finally understood.

I finally found a little cove that was not occupied. I choose to wear Keen sandals for hikes like this when I know there is a chance of needing to cross water.

Oak Creek near Crescent Moon Park

I found a big, flat rock about midway into this stream. So I just walked in and climbed up to sit for a while.

Once I got on top of the rock, I noticed this random piece of driftwood laying to one side.

I have no idea what the colors mean, but for some reason it just felt magical.

There was no sound other than the water gently flowing over rock. The sky was cloudless and blue. There was a light breeze, just enough that it was causing cottonwood blossoms to rain down like snow. Dragonflies played.

I did nothing but listen and breathe for quite a while. I lost myself in the sounds of nature and I felt overwhelming joy at the simple beauty of it all and tremendous gratitude for being able to take advantage of it.

My mind shut off. For those who understand what I mean by that, it is a priceless gift when it happens and you can sustain it. I was totally present in just that place, at just that moment, with no thought of what was just behind me or what would come next.

I experienced what it means to be near Earth’s vortex in my own way which is always the truest way.

Cathedral Rock after church

Back To Church

After Cathedral Rock, I made a visit to a place that isn’t one of the official vortex sites but is still considered to be a sacred site in Sedona. Welcome to The Chapel.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross

The Chapel of the Holy Cross was the vision of a local sculptor. She originally planned to build it in Hungary but war cut that plan short so she decided to build it in her home state of Arizona. From this chapel, you get a pretty spectacular view of several formations in Red Rocks.

Gotta insert a little humor here. Guess what I’d call this rock formation:

Giggle. It made me blush.

Support The Local Economy

A morning of visiting vortex sites set me up for an afternoon of shopping 🙂

The Tlaquepaque shopping district in Sedona is about the most charming shopping plaza I’ve come across.

The Final March

For Day 2 in Sedona, I decided to get some real hiking in. I set off for a 6 mile round-trip trek into Boynton Canyon, also a vortex.

If anyone ends up visiting Sedona, this was a fantastic hike. The views of the red rock formations start about 5 minutes in and you get to see them up close.

Helmet Rock

I have no idea what that rock is called, but it reminded me of Darth Vader’s helmet so I’m calling it Helmet Rock.

These epic views and endless sunshine continue for the first half of the hike. It is pretty much flat and what I like to call “easy walking”, meaning you can actually lift your eyes to the views pretty often without worry about tripping over a rock or a root.

Somewhere around the 2 mile mark, the strap on my right Keen sandal broke. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but it basically turned that shoe into a hiking flip flop. I kept going.

Show Me the Towhee

Another bird I discovered on my trip to the Golden Door was the Spotted Towhee. Towhees are one of the bird names I love because it actually helps you identify this bird by sound. He literally sings “tow hee”. Check this guy out:

Spotted Towhee

The spotted towhee is fairly common in California so better pictures to follow later.

Around the next bend, I met up with another local.

Justin, this one’s for you:

He was coiled up enjoying the sun on my path and as surprised by me as I was of him. He actually reared up into striking position for a second.

Black Tailed Rattlesnake

If I had not slowed down a pace due to the shoe issue, I’d likely have stepped right on it. I kindly paused until it uncoiled and went on it’s way.

Energy Pull

The hike just kept getting better and better.

More magic around every turn.

Warbling Vireo (I think)

When hiking, sometimes you have to give way to others who are crossing in the opposite direction:

The Vortex of the Vortex

The final mile of the hike into Boynton Canyon was mostly in the Secret Forest of Coconino National Park. There is nothing better than the smell of warm pine needles on a hike through the woods.

And then, after a final and fairly intense uphill push for the last 10 minutes, I arrived.

Welcome to Boynton Canyon. You can’t get here unless you hike in or hire a helicopter.

Boynton Canyon

It was hard to capture in a photo. I’m balancing on a flat but steeply angled rock across from this view. Between us is a sheer drop into the canyon floor of around 800 ft. It took me a minute to be able to let gravity anchor me.

Boynton Canyon

It took another 5 minutes for the few people who were already there to leave.

And then there were about 15 minutes where I had it all to myself.

Boynton Canyon

This time there were tears of joy and of gratitude. This was the pinnacle of the trip for me. Tomorrow I’ll be heading to my final destination.

I took time to thank God and my tribe for seeing me through this journey safely and for all the magic of it.

No Ordinary Moments

On the hike back out, I took my time going through the forest. My right foot was slipping out of my flip flop and making downward progress slow.

And then the left shoe strap broke. At least now they match 🙂

I stopped to see if any temporary repair could be achieved. When I stood up, I was eye to eye with this little gift:

I believe these are baby Cassin’s vireos. There are more than 30 species of vireo in Arizona so I’m going off what my Merlin app sound ID said. I got a decent picture of mom if anyone wants to weigh in:

Cassin’s Vireo

There are no ordinary moments friends. I’d obviously walked right by this little family on the way in and the nest was fairly conspicuous on the path, but still I would be a hundred or more people a day pass right by it and never see it.

Joy.

Cassin’s Vireo Babies

This nest was ready to overflow. One of them got up and starting stretching his wings. Mom was going nuts telling him not to jump while some crazy blond hiking in blue flip flops was still near.

A Moment Of Silence

Once back at the hotel, I realized I was going to have to say goodbye to my Keen’s. For those who are not following on Facebook, I posted a memorial to my Keen’s a few days ago. Those shoes have carried me all over the world. Here’s a collection of a few photos I could dig up where you can see them:

I did a little impromptu eulogy for them and made the valet join me in a moment of silence. It truly pained me to leave them behind, but it was so symbolic since those were the last steps of my cross country journey.

The Final Drive

Frittata Followers, tomorrow is my final drive. I’m nervous and exhilarated at the same time. It will be another long journey across desert and desolate landscape including a brush along the border of Mexico.

But I’m ready. I soaked in all the energy of Sedona. My spirit rejoices at the idea of being in my own space. I get choked up just thinking about what it will feel like to lift the door on my Pod and see my most prized possessions, the things I loved too much to sell before leaving Louisiana.

Will you be there to share that moment with me?

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Two Days in Santa Fe

Stop #2 in New Mexico is Santa Fe. What a lovely little town! The land of enchantment continued to grow on me during on what turned out to be a very restful stop on the journey. But first…the intermezzo!

Ojo Caliente

Hot ‘Nuff?

I’ve been intrigued by this idea of natural hot springs for quite some time but have never had a chance to check one out. That was the original plan for Eureka Springs, AR but if you’ve been following the blog, you may remember that we found out the springs in that area are contaminated. No go.

Because I’m a bit of a wellness resort junkie now, I’ve done quite a bit of research on the top spots in the U.S. If you look for wellness retreats in New Mexico, you will find Ojo Spa Resorts, which has two locations.

Ojo Caliente


Taking the Plunge

While planning this trip, I kept oscillating back and forth on whether to take the plunge and stay at an Ojo property or not. I am still a pretty loyal TripAdvisor user and the reviews for these properties are all over the road.

As the universal plan would have it, I realized that Ojo Caliente was the halfway point between Taos and my next stop of Santa Fe! I decided to do a day pass.

Ojo Caliente

I grabbed some lunch before grabbing my slippers and towel. The restaurant gets rave reviews for being “farm to table” but to me it was pretty typical of this area – lots of burgers, meat and enchiladas and very light on lighter fare.

Sinking In

I’ll admit, I was a little bit like a fish out of water at first. The place is basically a big set of outdoor hot tubs. They each have a sign that tells you what natural mineral that particular tub is about – lithia, iron, arsenic (um, isn’t arsenic bad for you?). They all looked the same to me.

It was also 85 degrees outside. Now, in this area it is “dry heat” so it felt more like a spring morning than a desert. That said, getting into a hot tub when it isn’t cold out didn’t work for me. It was HOT. I managed to hang for about 10 minutes in the first tub, and then when I got out I was actually cold enough to move to another tub. But within 5 minutes I was out again.

I much preferred the pool that was at a more standard temp.

Mud Puddles

One of the areas with a tub was a mud tub. There were instructions.

This one really had me muddled.

I read the instructions. I looked around.

The idea is that you use this mud faucet to get your hands full of mud which you then slather all over your body. Then you sit on a muddy lounge chair in the sun and bake yourself dry. I can see where there may be some kind of skin benefits to this, you know, like an all-over body masque? But then…..

Then you are supposed to get into this tub where everyone else that slathered their mud goes to “rinse off”.

I went ahead and took a selfie of myself once I got the mud fully applied and baked on.

Leave the Mud to the Mudbugs

Hell no I didn’t get in that tub! Gross!

I’m all about celebrating the inner child on this journey but I had to draw the line in the mud on that one.

While I’m glad I visited Ojo Caliente, I am very glad that I did not decide to spend the money to stay on the property. I think this would be a worthwhile thing to check out for a day when it’s cold outside. And it stays open for day-trippers til 10pm which means if you planned it right you could be taking a hot tub while the sun is setting over their rock mesa.

Other than that, there wasn’t anything to do and absolutely nothing else for miles around.

As for the mud, I’ll leave it to the mudbugs (crawfish).

Bishop’s Lodge

Another short but scenic drive and I arrived at Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe.

This place was definitely a splurge (which turned out to not be worth it but that’s another story). I picked it because you have 2 options in Santa Fe – either stay in the plaza where you are near the shops and restaurants, or stay at one of the handful of properties just out of town that claim to have access to hiking trails and better views.

Bishop’s Lodge Santa Fe

The GPS had a little fun with me. I got routed onto the Old Spanish Trail that I had also driven between Colorado and New Mexico. The last 5 miles or so were twisting backroads and when I actually found the hotel I still had to call to figure out where registration was because I apparently came in the horse entrance and not the human entrance. Very funny Google Maps, ha ha.

By then, it was late afternoon, and it was threatening rain which is always gorgeous in the desert.

Prepare Not To Launch

I had planned to have the hotel shuttle drop me in the historic Santa Fe plaza where I’d spend an hour or so menu-shopping and then I’d settle in somewhere for a solid margarita and a meal. That was until the registration lady (who was from Baton Rouge y’all) told me the shuttle only runs til 6pm.

Really?

The Service Industry Crisis

I decided to stay on property for dinner vs. getting back in the car and trying to navigate an unknown city at night.

In past posts I’ve shared my challenges eating out as a party of one. That, coupled with the massive crisis that our service industry is in, definitely makes for some interesting dining experiences.

This blog is not going to be my platform for highlighting the bad experiences I’ve had during my trip. Let’s just suffice to say that if you are a restaurant owner, chef or manager of a hotel and you are dealing with an unprecedented staffing crisis, know that this is a universal issue across our nation. Just do your best to keep the really good people and encourage them to attract their like.

Shout out to my server Stephanie at SkyFire for making the best drink rec I’ve had in a while. Also she was one of the most genuinely nice servers I came across on my cross country trip. She’s a keeper SkyFire!

Mezcal Negroni

Meet the Mezgroni – a negroni made with mezcal. Outstanding. Stephanie also did her best to provide me with an appropriate level of service despite the restaurant being totally unable to handle the half-full dining room that night (which is a problem since they won’t drive you into town after 6pm so they’ve deliberately set themselves up).

While my entrée left a lot to be desired, my first course was this aguachile hamachi which was exceptionally delicious.

Aguachile Hamachi at SkyFire Santa Fe

Retail Therapy

My original plan was to do some hiking from the property the next day. Found out that they don’t really have hiking trails. The “overselling” of hotel amenities and experiences WILL be an upcoming post after the road trip is over….

I ended up driving myself into Old Town Santa Fe. And there, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day browsing art galleries, visiting chapels and doing a little retail therapy.

Loretto Chapel
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisii

I walked around the side of this church because I was following what I thought was a hummingbird. And I found this beautiful courtyard:

And what I thought was a hummingbird turned out to be this interesting hummingbird moth:

Hummingbird Moth – click image for more info

I’ll spare you the details on the moth, but if you are interested click the image for more info!

I then took a closer look at that plaque that was in the garden. And was rewarded with this:

There are no ordinary moments.

La Boca or La Joka?

One of the treasures of my shopping spree were these fun earrings. They were a steal and made me feel pretty so I decided to take myself out for a dinner date. I picked a well-regarded Spanish tapas restaurant for dinner and made a reservation for a party of 2 at 630pm.

I find that if you try to reserve for a party of 1, they plan to stick you at the worst corner table in the restaurant so I’ve stopped doing that.

I am SO glad that the food here was really great. Because it took 2.5 hours to get 2 tapas dishes and dinner. Hey, I didn’t have anywhere to be so whatever. But observing the service for that long was comical.

Gin & Tonic

My gin & tonic was just ok. Way too much ice, way too little gin & tonic. The rose petals were a pretty garnish but it was hard not to swallow a juniper berry and they’re not very tasty if you crunch them.

Alcachofas – Grilled Artichoke

These alcochofas were amazing. Grilled roman artichokes with orange zest and mint and a little crumbled cheese. Yum.

Moroccan Carrot Hummus

Next up was a Moroccan carrot hummus.

The star of the show was a perfectly executed traditional paella. Best I’ve ever had in a restaurant. My special request was to have them sub Manzanilla clams that they had on special for the mussels.

Ended up getting a great wine to go with it.

Canyon Road

The next day I did the “hike” on the hotel property which was a total of about a mile and did not burn off the calories of the previous night.

Then I did some additional retail therapy on Canyon Road. This is a little stretch of road in downtown Santa Fe where they have truly world class galleries.

Geronimo!

No, I didn’t go sky-diving.

As I was cruising along Canyon Road, I came across Geronimo. I had read about this restaurant during my survey of the eating establishments in Santa Fe. This place is purported to be top-notch and is the most coveted reservation in town.

The good karma of the tip I left Stephanie last night came back around. They gave me a table. Not a seat at the bar, a table. And I had a SPECTACULAR meal with gracious service.

First, they brought me a glass of champagne.

My first course was hands-down best Caesar salad ever. I don’t even like Caesar that much. I rarely order it. But I had a feeling.

Wasabi Caesar at Geronimo

This was a Wasabi Caesar. The croutons were not croutons. They were some kind of crispy rice that was reminiscent of a tater tot. I’m sure the chef would not have given me a table if he knew I was going to compare his gourmet crouton to a tater tot, but for those who get me, that is the highest of compliments.

Thick shaved parmesan. Wasabi Caesar dressing (genius).

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to eat another normal Caesar again. It was that freaking good. I ate every single bite.

Next course:

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna & Sashimi Tartare

They had me at “buttermilk scallion pancakes”. The picture pretty much tells you what you need to know.

Mesquite Grilled Maine Lobster Tail pasta

I broke a rule. I got Maine lobster in a state that definitely doesn’t farm them fresh.

I had to.

Mesquite grilled Maine lobster tails, angel hair pasta, edamame, creamy chile sauce.

I finished the meal off with a trio of house made ice cream and went to bed a happy woman. Absolutely outstanding meal.

The Essence of New Mexico

While I’ll always be a coastal girl, the warmth and stark beauty of New Mexico’s desert landscapes have enchanted me.

The people here live differently. Maybe it’s the way they put so much emphasis on the arts. Or their commitment to the outdoor lifestyle.

The sun always shines. There are so many raw natural wonders. Yet you feel that there are secrets this land holds that go untold.

Those secrets are kept by the generations of Native American people that discovered ways to flourish in these arid climates long before European man came along.

I listened to much history during my drive here about the various tribes that fought for but lost land and the ability to practice their own way of life. Their heritage is sacred, and an integral part of the overall essence of New Mexico. I hope to come back in the future to experience and explore more of that history.

I leave you with this piece of art that I came across in Old Town.

There is only one destination left before I reach my final destination….I’m going to the spirit of the desert. Next post coming soon from Sedona, Arizona.

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Taos. It Rhymes With House.

Welcome to New Mexico! Did you know that’s how Taos was pronounced? I thought it was “TAYOS”. I stand corrected. Let me welcome you to “Taos that rhymes with house”, Frittata Followers. I’ve just experienced 5 full days of Taosonian hospitality and I’m excited to share it with you.

Quick side note- if you receive FrittataBlog in your email and read from your phone, be sure to actually click on the post title and let it take you to the blog. Otherwise you miss the fun videos. 😊

The Elk at El Monte Sagrado

The drive in from Great Bend, Kansas was EPIC.

I am sorry that I don’t have pictures to share but it was not the kind of drive that can be captured by a photo. I’ll do my best to give you a visual with words because this drive was one of the parts of this trip I’ll never forget.

The Vast Expanse of the Great Plains

I left before sunrise. The first 200 miles were on a single-lane road across a massive expanse of uninterrupted Kansas scrubland. I was heading due West, so as the sun started to rise behind me my rearview and side mirrors lit up in an almost neon magenta.

To drive for that many miles without passing through a town and without seeing civilization is somewhat unnerving. The sheer distance that you can see in each direction (because the land is so flat) reminds you how tiny you actually are and I felt so exposed. I was so grateful that I’d filled the tank the night before even though it was only half empty. If I had not, I would have run out of gas before I reached a town.

Glory to God

I thanked God about a thousand times that I had the car checked out before I left Florida and I prayed ten thousand times more that I wouldn’t get a flat. It was humbling and I felt totally vulnerable. I oscillated between being terrified of being out there alone and being totally exhilarated that I was really doing this.

No Man’s Land

When I finally arrived in a town, I filled up again even though I was just below half. I was listening to my HearHere app and learned that I was in an area literally known as “No Man’s Land”.

Down the road a-ways, I suddenly popped up over the tiniest of hills. It was just enough that I couldn’t see beyond it as I was approaching it. And BAM! There they were. The snow-capped Rocky freaking Mountains. I laughed and cried at the same time with gratitude that I was actually making progress and for the change of scenery.

In about 20 more miles, it started snowing.

If you check out a map of the route from Great Bend, Kansas to Taos, you’ll see that the fastest route cuts more directly south and actually cuts across Texas before getting into New Mexico.

I chose not to take this route because I found out the day before I left that there are wildfires burning to the east of Taos and I was afraid I’d run into road blocks. I took the safer route, only about 30 minutes longer, and cut through the Rocky’s instead.

The Downhill Slope

Once through the Rocky Mountain pass, the weather warmed up and the skies were nothing but blue. I cruised through another 70 miles or so of flat Colorado scrubland with the occasional sighting of wild horses running alongside.

Heading south on Hwy 522 into Taos

When I arrived at my hotel in Taos after the 8 hour drive, I was shaking. It took me a good 30 minutes to realize I had made it.

Rub It Out

I stayed at El Monte Sagrado, a really unique property with a well- known spa. It was rustic in a way but is also probably the nicest accommodation available in Taos.

I immediately scheduled a massage. They had availability about 2 hours later so I went into town, ate some tacos and found this place:

Chokola Bean to Bar

And I got one of these $11 milkshakes:

I got the massage that my piriformis desperately needed and then I grabbed my binoculars and went to meet the locals.

Western Tanager

That boy was so beautiful! I took like a thousand pictures of him.. Got his wife too. Then I found this big boy.

That is the biggest dove I’ve ever seen. Seriously. I love his blue 80’s eyeshadow.

Forest Closed

The main activity in this area is hiking. Situated at the foot of Carson National Forest, there are trails for every ability level. Unfortunately the entire forest was closed to the public even though the fires were quite a distance away.

It’s sad because my understanding is the fires started as controlled burns that got out of control. Now many sacred Native American areas are gone and the town is struggling without summer tourist income.

If you were planning a trip this way, don’t skip it. The air was clean and if you read on I’ll share plenty of things to do.

The Enchanted Circle

Next up is a drive of Taos’s Enchanted Circle. This is an incredible scenic drive that takes you through foothills and mountains, tiny ski towns and arroyos.

The Enchanted Circle, New Mexico

I only had words for the drive in from Kansas, but for this drive I have nothing but pictures.

Eagle Lake

I stopped to take some pictures and realized there were some THINGS moving on the dirt all around me.

Prairie Dogs are Vegetarians

I also got this killer shot of a rare swallow – meet Mr. Violet-Green Swallow:

Violet-Green Swallow

Heed The Warnings

The views were spectacular. I must have stopped twenty times trying to capture it all for you.

And then I came across these warning signs:

Do you think I found them??

Of course I did!

Little Big Horn Sheep! Yes, the goal is to get the ones that have the double wrapped horns but these cuties made my day. I pulled over and walked right up to them.

Back on the road.

The Wise Man

I was hoping to see some elk on that drive but did not. When I got back to the hotel, I was talking with an old native American man that has lived in Taos his whole life. He said, “go to the Gorge. Hike out a ways. Find elk.”

Ok, but what’s a gorge?

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Oh. That’s a gorge. The Rio Grande gorge as it turns out. It was impossible to get pictures to do it justice so this selfie is the best I could do.

The Rio Grande Gorge
Click image to learn more

That’s A Big Ditch

The Rio Grande gorge is a huge ditch, for lack of a better word, where the Rio Grande river runs through a tectonic chasm for about 50 miles from southern Colorado through Northern New Mexico. The gorge is 800 ft deep. You can either walk along a trail at the rim or you can boldly walk right out onto the bridge itself.

But Where Are The Elk?

I hiked about a mile along the gorge. No elk.

It was about 6pm and the sun was still high overhead. What if I just drive the Enchanted Circle one more time, maybe in reverse?

Yes folks, the sun was going down but as I rounded a tight bend way up high in the mountain, I met this young fellow.

Look at how he just easily hops that barbed wire fence! I was ecstatic. And then a few miles up the road I found the ladies:

The Enchanted Circle delivered!

Arroyo Seco

The next day, on a tip from the valet at the hotel, I decided to check out Arroyo Seco which is a small village just north of Taos. I read that they have a place known for its ice cream, so…

No Ordinary Moments

So I’m eating my ice cream cone and walking through the village toward my car. A truck rolls up next to me, window rolls down and someone yells, “Hey Jenny!”

It was John. John is the nice guy from the hotel that helped me when I couldn’t figure out how to work the remote control in my room yesterday. He is a Buddhist who also works at the organic café where I’d just had lunch. I guess he recognize the pigtails.

Anyhoo, he pulled over and we chatted. And he gave me another site to go see.

There are no ordinary moments folks because this is what happened next:

Remember that gorge from yesterday? Now I’m in it.

I hiked about half a mile and enjoyed a real hot spring right next to the Rio Grande. Well, I enjoyed it from the knee down because it was hot as you-know-what so I moved directly into the cool river instead.

Sky High

With plenty of daylight left, I decided to check out one more site that the hotel valet had told me about.

Rio Grande del Norte

This one took a bit of a drive…but I found myself on a flat plateau practically in the clouds.