At first, I considered writing two versions of this journal: one for my private journal, and one for my web site. I thought some of my more private thoughts were not worth sharing. However, by the time I got through it all, I realized that those ideas were what made this story worth telling. So the only thing I have cleaned up are a few (though not all) references to specific people and places to protect their identity.
It all started in 2008 when we won a vacation package at Audra’s school auction. It was $1000 for a one week stay at a ranch in Las Vegas, NM. It was a vacation home among several that a friend of the school rents out to people. However, since we already had our Italy trip planned for summer 2008, we knew we’d have to put off the NM trip. The ranch owners (who will remain nameless) agreed that wouldn’t be a problem, so we postponed the NM trip until this summer.
When we won the bid, we got some basic info on the ranch, including a poster with some pictures of the place that were taken in 2006. It was pretty impressive, spacious and looked like a lot of fun. Their web site showed that there was enough space to bring friends if we wanted to. The ranch would sleep at least four couples. Aside from this preliminary research, we basically put this on a shelf to focus on Italy.
When it came time to revisit the NM trip, at first we weren’t sure if we wanted invite anyone else. Italy involved tagging along with our friend Kristy for most of the trip, and Audra and I considered making NM a more romantic trip for just the two of us. Then again, we were pretty much broke from Italy, so reducing the cost of NM was appealing. When we found out we’d also have the opportunity to stay in Maine again this year (a very cheap trip all around) we counted that as our romantic trip and eventually decided to reduce the cost of New Mexico somewhat by inviting at least two other people. That would break the $1000 down further, making our portion $500.
The first person to commit was Kristy, Audra’s college roommate. Having lived together once before, there isn’t much that Audra and Kristy can’t handle together. We also visit her at the shore each year for several days, so we’ve all grown accustomed to each other. Having already traveled to Italy with Kristy, we were all familiar with each others’ quirks. We also had a system worked out when traveling to share expenses whenever possible to spread our dollars and keep confusion to a minimum. Kristy has very similar tastes in culture, music and outdoors stuff as we do, and she wanted to take in some rafting on the Rio Grande, which we agreed would be something to work in somewhere. We had so much fun at the cooking class in Italy that we also agreed that a cooking class in Santa Fe would be part of the trip. The ranch had a large (supposedly) fully equipped kitchen, a major attraction. Perhaps we’d be able to cook a few nights using local ingredients? That might help save on going out to eat.
The second person to commit was our friend Jeff, also someone from Audra’s college years in the theatre at BU. Jeff is a drummer and we’ve jammed a few times, but we have somewhat different tastes in music. He’s into the heavier music that I can listen to just fine, but don’t care to play much. He’s also into outdoor sports and has done a good bit of traveling to China and Romania, as well as around the US. Jeff was looking forward to rock climbing, and to a much needed vacation after changing jobs recently. He was also taking care of his parents who were recovering from a car accident. Jeff stayed with us during past play productions of the Bloomsburg University Alumni, so we were somewhat familiar with each others’ quirks.
The four of us together usually had a good time, and we had all talked about doing something like a group vacation before. With the line-up confirmed, we bought our plane tickets at the same time via a conference call and looked forward to our adventure.
As the trip got closer, Kristy scheduled a balloon ride, but Audra was a bit squeamish about it and I didn’t see the point in spending the $200 each for us to go if she wasn’t going to enjoy it. I researched musical venues for possible open mic opportunities. The week we selected was loosely based on a popular solar-powered music festival in Taos that I was looking forward to. Unfortunately, the solar festival was canceled due to the recession, eliminating one of the major things I wanted to do. There was another major festival, but it was happening just before our arrival. This was beginning to feel like Italy all over again, and I was determined to not let that happen. I was determined to have more musical interactions. The Southwest also happens to be a haven for Buddhist organizations and sitting groups, so I thought perhaps I would visit one.
My research turned up many venues, but seeing music was largely dependent on where we landed at various times, and in which city. With some of our activities spread out, I printed off details on Santa Fe, Taos and Las Vegas. Albuquerque had a decent amount of things going on, but it was only going to be our entry point to the state – not where we’d be spending any serious time. Taos looked the most promising, with many venues and local cultural organizations.
Ramping up to the trip, we frequently emailed the Las Vegas ranch owners to make sure they knew we were coming. They assured us everything was in order, and told us if we needed anything after we arrived, to just call to let them know.