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Posts tagged ‘United States’

red rock secrets

We ended our ten-day trek through Arizona and New Mexico in Sedona – one of the Southwest’s most acclaimed destinations. In addition to the gorgeous red rock buttes that ring the town, what struck us most is how different Sedona felt culturally and spiritually from the rest of the state.

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polar vortex

As the polar vortex dipped down from the Arctic and a deep chill enveloped the District a couple of weeks ago, we were a lot better prepared to keep warm than the previous month when a pair of snowstorms caught us off guard in the Southwest.

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Southwest chill

Somewhere between the haphazard backpacking days of our youth and the meticulously planned vacations our parents favor lies the perfect balance of trip planning. Showing up in a new town without pre-arranged lodging or definite plans and only a vague timeline for departure still seems conceptually exciting but is no longer practical, especially when we travel with two little rugrats in tow. After years of travel we’ve learned to throw together a pretty good trip at the last minute with only minimal research — an approach that is not without drawbacks.

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top of Texas

A third of the way through our Southwest road trip, Christmas Eve found us in Artesia, NM – a small town that owes its name to a long ago depleted artesian aquifer and whose present existence is supported mainly by oil and gas refineries. A ghost town under ordinary circumstances, Artesia seemed doubly so as we navigated its deserted, halogen-lit streets. Even grocery stores were closed on account of the approaching holiday. The neon billboards of fast food restaurants, which remained stubbornly open, provided the only sign of life as night approached. We had stocked up on groceries before our arrival and hunkered down in our inn with a board game to while away the evening.

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hidden beauty

Hands down, the top highlight of our most recent trip to the Southwest was a visit to Chiricahua – a little-known national monument that is tucked away in the southeast corner of Arizona, near the border with New Mexico. The park receives between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors a year – less than one-tenth of the number of people who visit nearby Saguaro, where we had spent the previous day.

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snow day

A friend of ours is fond of saying that there is no such thing as cold weather; rather, the problem lies in poor clothing choices. Junebug, for one, disagrees with this sentiment. It does not matter how warmly we dress her or how much we play up the fun to be had with fresh powdery snow. The last few months she got her first taste of a proper winter – with snow and temperatures in the teens during our Thanksgiving trip to Maine and a snowstorm in DC this weekend. To say that she did not enjoy her exposure to the frosty weather would be an understatement.

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dino tales

In a way, our end-of-year Southwest road trip was the vacation D had envisioned taking six months ago, when we wrapped up our assignment in Kigali.

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holiday musings

Growing up, there is no question that the winter holidays were our favorite: Hanukkah for S, New Year’s for D. Sweets, festive decorations, and lots of presents – it’s easy to win a kid’s heart over with these. Now that we have children of our own, we’ve come to appreciate other holidays a lot more. Any holiday that gives us a three-day weekend is to be celebrated, but the ones, like this past Veterans Day, when we get the day off from work while schools remain open feel particularly valuable. Of the holidays we miss being stateside the most, Thanksgiving tops the list: there is simply no substitute for family and home-cooked, traditional meals when one is serving overseas.

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Boise greenbelt

In retrospect, three nights in Boise was probably one too many out of our all-too-short home leave road trip, and we should have spent an extra day hiking in the Sawtooths. Still, Boise proved charming and we found plenty to do with the kids.

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all over the map

This summer marked the twentieth anniversary of D’s first concert, a one-day festival featuring the likes of Green Day and the Offspring. In the intervening two decades, D’s musical tastes changed and expanded, but his passion for (obsession with?) live music has remained constant. Of the 430 shows he’s seen over the last twenty years, 17 have been in just the last couple of months since we’ve returned to the United States, and these concerts have been literally all over the map – D has managed to catch shows in seven states plus the District of Columbia this summer.

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