When I was in my twenties, I remember an older friend sharing one of the secrets of her long-time marriage. “We always have a trip planned and written on the calendar,” she said. “While we’re counting down the days before we leave, Ken and I look into fun things to do while we’re there. We love learning about new places and experiencing them together.”
I’ve never forgotten this great piece of advice, so, over the years, James and I typically have something special cookin’ for life’s big benchmark celebrations. Of course, this year threw everyone a curveball in the planning department! In March, we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary at home. Refusing to let “sheltering-in-place” steal the joy from such an important milestone, I put on a sequin gown and got all gussied-up while James went to pick-up dinner.
We dined by candlelight and talked about what we would do when the opportunity for an anniversary celebration do-over presented itself. In past benchmark years, we’d either snow skied or done the beach thing—usually somewhere Mexico. We decided that wherever we ended up, it would be in the states.
“Let’s run away to the mountains,” I suggested. “What about Colorado? We could drive there.”
“I’d like to get out of the heat,” James agreed. “But I don’t want to drive. It’ll take too long.” He thought for a moment then told me about something he’d been looking into. “There’s this cool train ride we can take. It goes up into the mountains in Colorado. It’s supposed to be an amazing experience.”
Okay, I’m going to admit that I wasn’t jumping up and down about this idea. How had we gone from zipping down snow-covered mountains or sunning on sandy beaches to parking our rear ends on a train for nearly seven hours? This is it! I thought sadly to myself. We’re officially old!
Seeing my worried expression, James took my hand. “Everything is different this year, but this is going to be fun!” he assured me with a wink. “I’ll take care of the train ride, and you can find us someplace to stay in Taos.”
Hmm, Taos? Shopping, great restaurants, art museums . . .Now, that was something I could get my head around!
So, we planned our anniversary trip around a six and a half-hour train ride on the historic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, touted as being "America’s Longest, Highest, and Most Spectacular Narrow Gauge Railroad".
Sidebar: If you’re looking for an “amazing experience,” this is definitely one! But caution, don’t skimp—book your seats in the parlor car. I promise you’ll be happy you did—it’s first-class all the way. (And, since this is likely something you’ll be doing only once in a lifetime, why not do it right?)
Peaks, Valleys, and Control Freaks
We were on our way to Colorado for the train ride when James pointed off to the West. "That must be the gorge!" he exclaimed excitedly. "Can you see it? It looks like the Grand Canyon!"
I stole a quick glance out the driver's side window. Yes, I was driving. (Control Freak) "I can see it," I told him as we started across a long bridge across the great divide. "It's incredible!"
James asked me to pull over at the observation point so that he could take some photos. I checked my watch, making sure our ETA for the train departure was not in jeopardy. (Control Freak) "You've got ten minutes," I said, mustering my inner drill sergeant. "Then, we need to keep on heading to Colorado."
I parked the rental car and watched as he hurried across the parking lot and over to the lip of the gorge. "Hey, hold up there, hoss!" I called, worried about what I'd do if he went toppling over the edge. "We've got a train to catch and if you fall to your doom into the Rio Grande, I'm thinkin' we'll be late!"
Amused by my comment, (and likely not wanting to forfeit the bucks for the pricey upgrade on the parlor car), James snapped a couple of shots and walked quickly back to the car. "We should come back here," he said. "It's magnificent!"
"It is," I agreed, seeing the excitement in his eyes. "We're totally coming back here!"
And, we did!
On our last day in New Mexico, we headed back to the gorge. It was mid-morning and the sun was shining—not a cloud in the sky. James spotted some mountain goats near the bridge and worked his way down to photograph them. A bit after that, we started across the bridge which caused us both to pause momentarily each time a big truck zoomed across it, making the entire thing wobble! About mid-way, on a scenic overlook, there was a suicide prevention hotline number to call. Honestly, it was the first time I realized that people without hope had come here to throw themselves into the gorge. I had mistaken the memorials set up along the rim to be those erected for those who'd accidentally fallen to their deaths. It was a sobering moment.
There's an old saying—life is a series of peaks and valleys. This was definitely a valley where some people, overcome with the weight of this world, chose to exit from it.
There are a few benches scattered along the trail that snakes along above the gorge. At one point, I took a seat, marveling at the beauty of God's earth and the magnificence around us. I sat for a moment, wondering what our ancient ancestors did as they meandered over these scrubby plains then came across this enormous gap in the terrain. It must have been quite a shock! Did they turn around and go back where they came from or did they follow the river until they found a place to cross?
Before getting onto my husband again for standing to close to the edge (Control Freak), I closed my eyes and a couple of scriptures came to mind as I thought about the struggles and challenges of all the people who'd made tough decisions at this incredible place.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 18. Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
In a world where everyone is feeling the effects of Covid, isn't it comforting to know that God's word tells us He has overcome the world? And, though we may feel like this valley we're in is never-ending, we should take heart and know that as believers, we will be on those mountain tops again.
I tease about being a Control Freak, but ultimately I know God is in control and hope is on the move!
Peak!!!! (sort-of) At Williams Lake - Carson National Forest - Elevation 11,040
Closet ClothesSure Challenge 2020 - Week 33
After we returned from our NM trip, I showed up at the office on Wednesday in this salmon-colored sleeveless dress from Ann Taylor.
I couldn't even tell you the last time I wore this and I've had it for years. It does fit well, but the color just doesn't do much for me and I always consider it as being somewhat "milk-toasty". I'm happily handing it off to one of my sweet nieces!
This long, stretchy summer dress from New York & Company is another one that's getting the boot. I'm not a big fan of the way it fits or the colors. It's actually served me well on numerous occasions, but like Wednesday's dress, I'm not sure when I wore it last! (I know, I probably should seek professional help!)
I don't normally include Fridays in the Challenge since it's always been a casual day at our office. (funny now how every day seems like casual day!)
I've thrown a short denimum vest over a long, strapless sundress from White House Black Market. I'll keep the vest, but am ridding my closet of the dress. In the upcoming weeks you'll see that I have another one that's almost exactly like this one! (shame!)
So, there you have it! Everything goes this week! (Except the vest - you'll see it again I'm sure!)
From The Great Outdoors -
This is where I usually share something from our yard, but in the spirit of hiking around New Mexico, I thought it'd be fun to show a photo of James and I celebrating at the ski lodge after our descent from the trail to Williams Lake. The rocky path goes 2.2 miles uphill and between the altitude and the enormous breakfast we scarfed down to "fuel up", we were huffing and puffing with the best of them. Here's a shot of our breakfast: (remember, this is a NO-JUDGING BLOG)
BTW - That's my plate in the foreground. Just as I was beginning to dig in, they brought me a huge sopapia complete with butter and honey! There was no way we could finish it all but I promise you, we put a serious dent in it!
I hope all of this has brought you some joy! My apologies if it felt like you'd been forced to view our vacation slides! Happy 35th, James Evan Simmons!! It's time to start planning our next Big Adventure!
Love to all -