Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring Break 2017 El Paso Style

This year, we were invited to visit my husband's older sister and her husband in El Paso, Texas. We left on the Monday of the boys' spring break. Thankfully, I happened upon a coupon for a parking facility near the airport called Fast Park. This made our parking experience quite stress-free. We simply showed up, received our identification ticket and were led to a parking space, where a shuttle bus driver loaded our luggage and drove us immediately to the airport. Within minutes, my husband's larger bag was checked and we were checked in and waiting in the appropriate terminal.

I must say, the first flight experience was a bit shaky for me. To begin with, we were on one of United's smaller airplanes (the man in front of me had to walk hunched over just to board the plane) and overhead storage was minimal. Thus, they required all roller bags be tagged and checked at the entrance to the plane. I really don't like to be separated from my luggage at all (that is why I almost always choose to fly with a minimal amount so it can fit in carry-on baggage). Then, once we sat down, we were informed that a maintenance issue had arisen. Yikes! It is always disconcerting to me to hear any news of possible difficulty with a plane. If that wasn't enough, it began to storm.

After a full 45 minutes or more on the tarmac, we finally lifted off (with me gripping the arm-rests of my seat and praying through the bumpy launch until we were above the clouds). Even then, I found it difficult to avert my attention to the book I brought to bide the time. Thankfully, Sean was undeterred and began reading right off the bat.

We easily made our connecting flight and I was relieved to find that we were on a bit larger plane. As we approached El Paso, it was obvious that this part of the country didn't resemble our own at all. It seemed like a barren wasteland of rocks and ridges, with very little green. The boys were fascinated and thoroughly excited. Phil and Martha met us at the baggage check area and we headed off for a quick bite to eat at a restaurant serving soups and sandwiches (not Sean's first choice of selection  - I was a bit perturbed with his refusal to eat the bread bowl of delicious cheddar broccoli soup his dad had ordered for him, but at least he did eat once I went back up and ordered him a BLT with chips).

If Trevor had had his way, they would have jumped right into Phil and Martha's pool the minute we arrived at their house. We convinced him that the water would be quite chilly and forced him to wait until morning. When Tuesday morning dawned, it became quite clear that we would not be experiencing typical El Paso weather. It was downright frigid (about 50-some degrees). Nonetheless, the boys were intent upon trying out the pool.

We had expressed a desire to go into Mexico, so the boys could say they visited another country. They decided rather than driving just over the border, where it might be unsafe, we would drive to Columbus, New Mexico and cross over the border to a place called Puerto Palomas. We visited what's known as The Pink Store and had a fantastic authentic Mexican lunch. Trevor got the most tantalizing serving of nachos (chock full of beef - his favorite). John, thinking ahead to our planned evening cookout, went meat-less and ordered a quesadilla. I was thrilled with my Tostada Trio (one avocado, one beef, one bean) and a side of refried beans. Sean wimped out with an American order for a cheeseburger and fries. The food was fantastic.

Trevor decided to purchase a souvenir and selected a cow skull. This led to a funny moment when we had to declare what we were departing with. I said "It's a skull ... but not a human one ... just a decorative cow one." We were ushered out rather quickly, as they were arresting a young man for who knows what (drug or weapon smuggling??).

The boys spent most of the afternoon in the pool, despite the chilly temperatures. Then, that evening Martha graced us with a cookout. We had hoped to eat by the pool, but I'm just as glad we ended up around the table. John's niece Sarah, and her husband, Saul, joined us and we had a delightful time talking together.

The next day, our plan of attack included a hike up the nearby Franklin mountain. We got quite a workout and everyone but John took a tumble in the rocks on the way down (it was quite steep and the rocks just give out beneath your feet even when careful). The view was amazing. Knowing I couldn't trust my own photography skills, I didn't even bring my phone along, but I managed to get a few photos from Sean and John and then Martha took a few shots of all of us together.

This led to the most disturbing part of our spring break jaunt. When we returned from the hike, I was determined to wash our dusty clothes. Trevor and Sean had jumped in the pool again and I grabbed up Trevor's discarded shorts and t-shirt off the floor. I tossed everything in and about five minutes later, Trevor came dashing inside to ask where his shorts were. He had left his I-phone in the pocket and I had failed to check pockets thoroughly. We were devastated, to say the least. John was furious, in fact. Talk about a downer!

That evening, we drove over to Sarah and Saul's townhouse to see their place and meet their cat (a feisty young thing called Sasha). Then, we all headed together to another authentic Mexican restaurant, Barrigas. Saul ordered an appetizer called queso fundido (a melted cheese with green chiles, mushrooms, and chorizo) and taught us how to fork off the stringy cheese and slap it onto a tortilla. It was quite yummy. John ordered a beef soup, I ordered chicken breast campesina (filled with cream cheese and spinach - ah, my love of spinach), Trevor ordered beefy tacos, and Sean ordered another cheeseburger plate. Again, another fabulous meal!

Thursday, temperatures returned to normal, just as we were ready to depart and head for home. Martha made a pit stop at a Barnes and Noble so we could buy the fifth book of the Percy Jackson series for Sean to read on the trip home (he devoured the library's copy of the fourth on the trip there). Our flights back (El Paso to Denver to Indy) were uneventful and we made the close connection. Once we secured our luggage and had a quick bite at the over-priced airport Chik-fil-A, the Fast Park shuttle bus awaited us and transported us quickly back to our car (I'd definitely recommend this business to anyone flying out of Indy and needing to leave a car parked nearby - they provide a free newspaper and water bottle, in addition to covered parking, immediate shuttle transport, and reasonable rates). All-in-all, it was a splendid spring break adventure.

------- (And, thanks to putting the phone immediately in rice, and taking it to a phone repair place, we only had to pay $90 to replace the screen and the battery to get it working normally again. He didn't lose a single photo. Shwew!)

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