There is really nothing much to say about today except that we left our lovely air bnb in Mesilla at 7:30, and Mark, hero of the road, drove us the 551 miles all the way from Las Cruces to Manitou Springs outside of Colorado Springs–even though his Garmin and the Google directions on my cell phone were duking it out for the first 60+ miles about the shorter vs. the longer road. The Garmin kept wanting us to make U-turns and get on the I-25 right by Las Cruces, even though the Google-suggested state roads (the 70E, the 54E, and then the 219N to the I-25) saved us 200 miles and about 2 hours. Google won, but it was a tough battle! We only stopped for gas once, and once for a rest stop, and then for the ever-popular picnic, this time on the adorable town square in Las Vegas, New Mexico, with historic shops and hotels all around, and lovely shady trees around the gazebo and the picnic benches. I went into the classic 1880s hotel and purchased the privilege of using their bathrooms by getting myself a classy bartender-made Arnold Palmer for $4 and a $1 tip. The hotel was glorious–huge staircase, tin ceilings–and I would have loved to stay there! There were active wildfires directly west of Las Vegas, but we only plumes of smoke far off once. Many hiking areas from Santa Few going north are closed, though, and the fires have been burning since April; they are even now only 50% contained.
By the time we rolled into Manitou Springs, where we had picked another cheap, minimalist hotel deal for the one night and because we were hoping to maybe go for a short hike in one of the hiking areas nearby, it was just about 4:30 pm and we were pretty much toast. Dark clouds had rolled in over the mountains directly west of us, it was in the 60s and windy, so we decided to find nearby food–in jeans and jackets for the first time since we left Lincoln! We are in a funny strip of town that was clearly the classy visiting area in the 1950s, with big lightbulb and neon advertising signs that have all faded, and drive-up motels that are now third- and fourth-tiers and some of which are boarded up (for renovation, I think). But Manitou Springs is popular enough that there is some business even here, and the roadside Chinese dine-in/take-out with yet another broken neon sign right next to our motel had perfectly fine lo mein and sesame chicken, so we were a lot happier after we had had food (and hot tea), and even ventured out the .4 or so miles to from the motel to the “Garden of the Gods Trading Post” right at this park entrance, and even into the Garden just about a half mile or so. It was beautiful, but with the gray skies did not photograph well, and I realized that I wasn’t up for much walking. My bruised tailbone had behaved itself fairly well in the car (especially since I iced it for the first 2 or 3 hours, until the icepack got warm), but it did not like walking long distances. So we were back at the room about 8 pm (having acquired a souvenir mug at the Trading Post because we’ll need one for Mark’s tea, and it will become a Jupiter present later) and just did our writing and photo processing and called it an early night.