Monthly Archives: February 2009

Holiday Inn – Trinidad, Colorado

Trinidad Holiday Inn

During our 2009 Southwest sojourn you’ll see lots of lodging reviews at members of the InterContinental Hotel Group. Over the pass few years we’ve become rather fond of the Holiday Inn Express brand. Generally finding a clean, comfortable stay at a fair price and consistency of quality from one location to another. Reservations through their website are easy to make and the lowest Internet price available. I have found calling the hotel direct sometimes gets a better rate.

I’ve found Priority Club membership a rewarding program  – easy to earn and redeem points. On this trip we’re using points for six nights and earning bonus points by accumulating  eight or more additional nights. Please follow along as I blog brief reviews of each facility we use.

The Trinidad, Colorado Holiday Inn is located at exit 11 on Interstate 25 (11 miles north of the Colorado/New Mexico border) . The three-story Holiday Inn is a totally new facility that opened in 2008. We made this reservation only a few hours before leaving home. The king room was comfortably furnished with night stands on both sides of the bed, easy chair with ottoman, flat-screen television, desk and wireless Internet that worked. Bathroom was large with everything functioning. All was new and clean.

The swimming pool and fitness center remain open until midnight. The hotel is designed so that these activity areas are away from guest rooms. A full service restaurant and bar is on site. On check-in we received a $5 coupon good towards breakfast in the restaurant.

The next time we need a room in the Trinidad/Raton area we’ll happily stay at the Trinidad Holiday Inn.

 

Russell’s Travel Center – Springer, New Mexico

I-25 Exit 419

pink-thunderbirdI’m not a truck stop aficionado but Russell’s Truck Stop four miles north of Springer, New Mexico merits a visit. Actually I believe the more correct term is Travel Center. A few days before our trip the March issue of New Mexico magazine arrived with a feature on Springer. An interior picture of Russell’s caught my eye and I vowed to stop on our way south. The magazine didn’t identify exactly where to find Russell’s, we went sailing by at 75 mph, had to go four miles to the next exit and head back north.

Russell’s most unique feature is the four 1950s convertibles on  display among the Subways, snack foods and souvenirs. The pristine paint jobs and shiny chrome takes me back to my teenage years. The Chevy Bel Air recalls dates at the drive-in movies and Steak ‘n Shake.

cars-big-and-smallA clerk tells me that the owner of Russell’s started with just a couple of old cars but now has bout 35, mostly convertibles and mostly from the 50s. She says he’s building another truck stop on I-40 near the New Mexico / Texas border housing about two dozen of his collection. Almost as much fun as the convertibles is the row of peddle cars and firetrucks from the same era.

We’ve planned a late breakfast at Russell’s. The full-service restaurant, like everything else here is spotless. The breakfast quesadilla sounds interesting and we decide to split one. Wedged between two large flour tortillas are scrambled eggs, sausage (one could also choose bacon or ham), jack cheese, and green chile, grilled until crisp but not dry. Salsa, sour cream and a plate of hash browns accompanied the quesadilla. Very tasty and we’re both satisfied without being stuffed.

betty-boop-lampWe note the clientele as almost an equal mix of local rangers solving the world’s problems over coffee, over-the-road drivers and travelers. After breakfast Bob browses the trucker supplies while I take pictures of rhinestone studded purses, and Coke and Betty Boop memorabilia. In addition to the restaurant there’s also a Subway deli and an ice cream counter all under the same roof. I’m impressed with the fresh flower bouquets in the Ladies restroom.

travel-centerTourists and truckers will find all the amenities they expect from a good travel center plus a bit of nostalgia at the I-25 exit 419 in Northern New Mexico. Don’t fly by, stop for a visit to Russell’s.

Trinidad, Colorado

Trinidad by Night

We originally planned to set off on our trip Saturday morning but upped departure time to Friday afternoon. Decided to get 200 miles down the road to have more time for tomorrow’s adventures. Made last minute reservations in Trinidad, Colorado – seven miles from the New Mexico border – and got out of town by mid-afternoon.

Arrived in Trinidad shortly after sunset. After getting into our room we looked in the phone book for restaurant listings. There’s a full service restaurant in the hotel but that would be too easy and predictable. We like the menu for Cougar Canyon Fairway Grill.

Driving through town we see lots of cars at Chef Lui’s, “Chinese, Seafood, Cocktails,” and Rino’s Italian Restaurant & Steakhouse. The historic downtown seems quite alive for eating and drinking. Heading east of town Bob’s sure we don’t know where we’re going – all the more adventure. Cougar Canyon turns out to be a Golf Resort Community under development.

The Fairway Grill adjoins the golf shop. It’s obvious we’re the only tourists but we’re welcomed warmly by all of the staff. Next door a 117-room hotel is under construction, scheduled for completion by July 1, 2009. Under the pitch black star-studded skies we see not a foot of the Nicklaus Design golf course but the pictures intrigue with pedestal greens, split fairways and rocky canyon walls. Golf magazine named Cougar Canyon one of the “Top Ten Courses You Can Play in the U.S.” Although I’m not a golfer I have to come back in the daytime to see the course and its sweeping views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Instead of just passing through I want to make Trinidad a destination some day. The community’s rich history is preserved in the Corazon de Trinidad National Historic District. The Trinidad History Museum encompasses heirloom gardens and three landmark buildings including the Baca House, The Santa Fe Trail Museum and the Bloom Mansion. Just west of town we’ll find Trinidad Lake State Park and, further along the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway, Blue and Bear Lakes. A future Trinidad visit will reward with fascinating history, outdoor recreation and natural wonders.

Travels – New Mexico / Arizona

Leavin’ On a Road Trip

Bob and I are heading out on a 2+ week road trip to Arizona. I know some people dread being couped up in a car for even 100 miles but a road trip is my favorite way to travel. My best childhood travel memories were the times we would get in the car on Friday night, back out of the Illinois driveway, take turns driving through the night and be in Colorado by noon the next day. We knew where to get a burger in eastern Kansas at three in the morning or buy a smoked ham in Marysville. After sixteen hours we’d see the Rockies piercing the horizon.

I hope to keep readers posted as we travel through New Mexico and explore the Arizona desert. Come back daily for a new adventure. We plan to visit:

  • Las Vegas (New Mexico) National Wildlife Refuge
  • Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
  • Las Cruces, New Mexicodbg-agave
  • Chiracahua National Monument
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Sabino Canyon
  • Tohono Chul Park
  • Tucson
  • Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy
  • San Pedro House
  • Arizona Folklore Center
  • Tubac Presidio State Park
  • Tubac Golf Resort
  • Tumacacori National History Park
  • San Xavier del Bac Mission
  • Chihuly Nature of Glass Exhibit at the Desert Botanic Garden
  • Boyce Arboretumdesert-ride
  • Scottsdale
  • Taliesin West
  • Cosanti – Paolo Soleri’s Windbells
  • Phoenix
  • Heard Museum Indian Fair/Market
  • Arcosanti
  • Sedona
  • And dozens more!

Please join us on the journey and discover places to put on your next Southwestern itinerary.

TooJay’s Gourmet Deli – Florida

Comfort Food – and, So Much More

When we’re in southeast Florida and need comfort food or want a comfortable setting at the end of a hard day TooJay’s is never far away. Thankfully! It’s dependable, it’s consistent, it’s good!!toojays-door

Comfort can come in a crock of French onion soup, a caesar salad, Mom’s meatloaf or a traditional turkey dinner. Equally well done are classic deli dishes  – hot pastrami, nova salmon on a bagel, blintzes and matzo ball soup. Oh, I can’t forget their rye bread.

On our latest trip we tried two of TooJay’s Gourmet Specialties. Judy oohed and aahed over the crabmeat stuffed tilapia; baked to perfection and topped with a rich francaise sauce. Served over rice pilaf and fresh veggie of the day – lovely tender asparagus spears. I opted for a chicken and portabella mushroom marsala with roasted potatoes and asparagus. Soup or salad accompany dinner along with a plate of  rye bread – and plenty of butter. We both chose salad with blue cheese dressing, they came fresh and crisp. Servings were generous with half of each entree going into to go boxes. Judy oohed and aahed just as much when she feasted on the leftover tilapia. Our waitress was attentive without being invasive.

toojays-cakes

I’ve saved the best till last. TooJay’s Ultimate Combination – slices of three of their most popular cakes; banana dream, carrot and chocolate layer. As the menu says this is the ultimate dessert. Perfect for sharing, if you’re feeling generous. We order the “Ultimate” to go. For the price of $5.25 I expect thin slices of cake. When I opened the box I was amazed at the big thick pieces. I had a very bites every evening for almost a week. The banana dream truly was a dream, too bad I’ll have to wait until the next Florida trip for another slice.

Deli sandwiches, gourmet dinners and delectable desserts – TooJay’s defines comfort and so much more.

When You Go: You’ll find more than two dozen TooJay’s scattered around mid and south Florida. We like the one in Jupiter’s Bluffs Shopping Center. TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as carry-out and delivery

February Fun in Manitou Springs, Colorado

Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cook-Off & Carnivale Parade

pikes-peak-for-blogWe’re just at the end of the President’s Day holiday but I think it’s time to plan for next weekend. The gumbo starts cooking at 8am, February 21, 2009 in Manitou Springs. After the judges complete their tasting at 10:45 the public digs in – 2 tastings for a dollar. Competition is limited to 18 entries; winners receive cash prizes & trophies. Head to Soda Springs Park for a mumbo jumbo gumbo splurge.

manitou-storefronts-for-blogCarnivale Parade sets off through downtown Manitou at 1pm. I’ve never attended this event but this is the same community that brings us Coffin Races in October and the Great Fruitcake Toss in January. I’m pretty sure they know how to have a good time with gumbo and carnivale.

When You Go: Manitou Springs is encompassed by Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods.

The Sunnyside Cafe – Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Looking on the Sunny Side

sunnyside-cafeI want to like the Sunnyside Cafe in Highlands Ranch. It’s a couple of miles from home, locally owned with fair prices. After our first visit today I’m on the fence. Maybe everyone was tired at 1pm but that shouldn’t be our problem. We were seated promptly but without a great deal of warmth. The waitress mirrored the same behavior, efficient for the most part but not many smiles.

Bob and I both ordered sandwiches accompanied by our choice of fresh fruit, french fries, cottage cheese, house potatoes, onion rings, sweet potato  fries, soup or salad – a nice variety. Bob went for the BLT and fresh fruit. I ordered the chicken salad sandwich with sweet potato fries. The toasted whole wheat bread came topped with apple slices and chopped chicken mixed with grapes, walnuts and green onions in a light dressing. It was a generous helping and tasty if not outstanding. The sweet potato fries were nicely seasoned but not very warm, by the time I was done eating some were hard as tree twigs. Bob judged his sandwich lower with a “I wouldn’t order it again” rating. The bacon was extremely hard, not crisp – probably prepared in advance and allowed to dry out. The dish of fruit was fresh not canned or frozen. Ice tea acceptable but wasn’t refilled until we were presented with the bill.sunnyside-sandwich1

The Sunnyside has an extensive breakfast menu that is available from opening until the 2pm closing. Perhaps our mistake was selecting sandwiches. If breakfast is the specialty, stick with breakfast – scrambles, skillets, omelettes, benedicts, south of the border selections, plus traditional fare such as biscuits and gravy or hash and eggs. Gravies, soups, dressings and desserts are made from scratch in-house. Once again, we missed the specialties – our mistake.

The restaurant opens for breakfast and lunch daily and on Saturday night for dinner and live local jazz. There is a full bar. Sunnyside originated in La Puente, California in 1980 and the interior mildly reflects a  California/Mexican decor.

We will return to Sunnyside Cafe for breakfast and another chance to show us friendly service and quality food. I’m still straddling the fence but trying to look on the sunny side.

*Plan* – Southwest Colorado New Web Site

Explore Southwest Colorado Heritage

Follow in the Trail of the Ancients, explore the San Juan Skyway or the “Shady” side of Southwest Colorado. Start planning  your trip on a new web site, http://www.swcoloradoheritage.com covering  the Southmesa-verde1west Colorado Travel Region.

What a rich heritage you’ll find throughout the region, from the Ancient Puebloan People to Chief Ouray and the Utes; early Europeans coming for fur trapping to railroaders and miners with gold fever. Ride a stagecoach down Mancos Canyon or buy a custom made Western hat. The region’s scenery surpasses expectations and you’ll find recreational opportunities around every corner.

Visitors to the web site find a number of suggested trips, an electronic trip planner to build your own personalized itinerary, lots of information and links for attractions, destinations, events and accommodations. The region includes:cortez-dancer

  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Seven Scenic and Historic Byways
  • Five National Forests
  • Five Wilderness Areas
  • Hovenweep
  • Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
  • Ute Mountain Tribal Park
  • Chimney Rock Indian Ruins
  • Five Major Hot Springs Locations

That’s only ten of the dozens of options available to visitors. Start planning now.

Smashburger – Colorado, Kansas, Texas

Smash – Sizzle – Savor

smashburger-signIf you’re anywhere near a Smashburger restaurant, stop in, try one and let me know what you think. It took me several months between first hearing about Smashburger and getting into one. I regret that wasted time. Bob says they’re so good he’s sure we can only have one a month without upping the cholesterol count.

Smashburger, wanting to be “The best burger you’ve ever tasted,” started in Denver, Colorado. The concept sounds simple enough. Start with quality beef – fresh, never frozen, fire up the grill to just the right temperature, smash the beef on the grill to sear in the juices and flavor, sizzle to perfection. Let the customer savor with their choice of condiments.

The beef is certified Angus, in 1/3- and 1/2-pound sizes. Buns are classic egg, multi-grain, on spicy chipotle. Or, served up without a bun if you desire. American, aged Swiss, sharp cheddar, blue or pepperjack are the cheeses of choice. Need a sauce? There’s ketchup, mustard, ranch, mayo, smash sauce or spicy chipotle. Top it off with tomatoes, red onion, grilled onions, leaf lettuce, kosher pickles slices or fresh jalapenos. If that’s not enough for an additional cost you can add applewood smoked bacon, haystack onions, beefy chile, fried egg, guacamole, extra cheese or garlic sauteed mushrooms. Prices $4.99 – $6.99.

smashburger-yum-yum1

Speciality burgers include Spicy Baja, BBQ Bacon & Cheese, and Mushroom Swiss. A Smashchicken, Smash Dogs and salads are also options. On every visit I’ve been hung up on having the haystack onions – thin, crisp, served hot – great dipped in the chipotle sauce. We have yet to try Smashfries – tossed with rosemary, olive oil, and herbs, the French fries or veggie frites – flash-fried asparagus spears, carrot sticks and green beans. Sounds interesting.

Currently 10 Smashburger locations serve a growing demand; eight in Colorado, one in Wichita, Kansas and one in Houston, Texas. Burger lovers in Colorado Springs, Arizona, Texas and New Jersey will soon join the Smashburger fan club.

My memory isn’t long enough to know if it’s the best burger I’ve ever tasted but it’s the best I’ve had lately. I’ll keep returning for my monthly treat. Try it and tell us what you think.

*Deals* – Arizona Discounts – Phoenix

See Arizona & Save – Phoenix

 ShowUp Now in Phoenix and Save – The ShowUp Now Pass allows one admission to each of 13 participating museums and attractions. Passes are valid for 9 consecutive days from the first time you use it – expires at the end of the 9th day. Each person needs their own pass.

The currently available “Total-Access Pass” provides admission to the following attractions:taliesin-west

  • Arizona Museum for Youth – [$5.50]
  • Arizona Museum of Natural History – [$10]
  • Bead Museum – [$5]
  • Deer Valley Rock Art Center -[$7]
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West – Panorama Tour Only – [$27]
  • Heard Museum – [$10]heard-museum
  • Mesa Contemporary Arts – [$3.50]
  • Phoenix Art Museum – [$10]
  • Phoenix Museum of History – [$6]
  • Phoenix Zoo – [$16]
  • Pueblo Grande Museum – [$5]
  • Rosson House – [$4]
  • Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art – [$7]

The “Total-Access Pass” cost $34/adult and $16/child. Purchase and print your pass online. ShowUp is a source for tickets to a wide variety of performing arts events, attractions and festivals in the Greater Phoenix area.

Notes from Nancy: I’ve never used the ShowUp Now Pass, it’s certainly not as comprehensive as the Tucson Attractions Passport. It’s heavy on art and museum venues. If that is what you plan to do it could be a cost saver. I’ve included the admission fee (at the time of this posting)for one adult in brackets so that you can make your own decision. If, for instance, you plan to visit the Heard, Phoenix Art Museum, the Phoenix Zoo and take the Panorama Tour at Taliesin West you would save nearly double your expense. Please remember that the pass is valid for the Panorama Tour only at Taliesin West – a good introduction but the shortest and least detailed of the tours offered.