… to Santa Fe, New Mexico

We finally were able to take a much needed vacation! Steven and I started planning months prior when nothing was going on and we were excited to go. As the trip neared, we both suddenly had a lot going on: he was in the final stages of a big project and I had a lot going on with me slowly moving in with Mike and getting rooms set up. Despite the chaos, we were still excited to get away!

Our group changed a few times but we landed with him, me, and our friend Aaron. The 3 of us get along like *chef’s kiss* so it was a perfect group!

Wednesday, May 4

I had an early flight and was flustered while finishing up final packing and getting ready. I am always flustered when I leave for a trip. My carry-on suitcase did not have enough room but I was determined to make it work because I am incredibly stubborn. Mike stayed back for work and to watch Elliott; we said our goodbyes and I was off!

Morning traffic was tolerable and unlike my last 2 recent trips to the airport, airport traffic was not bad. I breezed through security and arrived at the gate at my exact intended time. Airport queen. The mask mandate was over despite the pandemic still going, but I chose not to wear a mask. It was weird.

Aaron and I were on the same flight so we met for drinks at one of the bars. We had a gate change and 2 delays… and more drinks. Aaron and I caught up on our lives. He raved about Mike! Hard not to.

We boarded our comically small plane and my bag got gate-checked. Guess I could have brought a larger bag and checked it like Aaron did but I know I would have been worried about it getting lost with the gate change. Gate-checks are easy. If it were not for my large coat to keep me warm in the cold New Mexico weather, my bag would have been the perfect size.

Aaron and I were coincidentally in the same row. It felt like low odds for that to happen but after seeing how small the plane was, I recognized the odds were fairly high. My seat-mate was happy to swap seats with him so he and I could socialize. However, I dozed off well before take off. I blame the drinks. We played Monopoly Deal when I woke up which killed a good chunk of time. Aaron had never played before but picked it up quickly!

Our flight landed about 30 minutes early. The Albuquerque airport was something else. They really leaned in to the southwest theme and I was here for it. We got Aaron’s bag from baggage claim and waited for Steven to arrive from Austin shortly after. We all exchanged hugs and giggles, picked up Steven’s bag, and headed to pick up our rental car, nay, large red truck.

Aaron drove us to Santa Fe, our final destination. It took about an hour and we had fun catching up in the car and taking in the beautiful sites. We stopped at the grocery store near our Airbnb to pick up groceries and lunch for our hike the next day. I had not eaten at all yet minus the airplane pretzels and a kombucha so I was starved and beyond ready for a snack.

The Airbnb was super, super cute. We all settled, unpacked, and finally ate a light snack since we had a big dinner planned. We poured some wine and went on a walk around the area. Was it cold? Yes. Was it hot? Also yes. Did I wear socks with my sandals? Absolutely. Mostly, it was windy and sunny with the most clear blue sky any of us had ever seen. I kept reminding everyone to drink water; we might not have been sweating but I had no doubt we would be dehydrated in the dry heat.

I video chatted with Mike and gave him a tour of the Airbnb. The weather was nice when just sitting on the patio so we relaxed there for a bit. We decided to play some games. Have you ever played “The Mind”? My siblings and I played it a few times and never beat it. Mike and I spent several hours playing it when we first started dating and we went CRAZY when we won. The 3 of us played at the Airbnb and lost our minds just as much when we beat level 2! Ha. We eventually made it to level 6 before giving up. All of us are mostly introverts so we all decided to relax separately before dinner to re-charge. Love that for us.

We left for the evening around 5:30pm to go to downtown Santa Fe for drinks. It was an absolute nightmare finding parking downtown but we figured it out. We passed the oldest house in Santa Fe and the oldest church in the United States which were kind of neat.

Our first official stop was at the Dragon Room bar. The bar tender was *rude* but the drinks were delicious and the bar was cute. We made ourselves comfortable in an empty area in the back and had a full-blown photoshoot. The lighting was great, we did not have a choice.

Steven had made dinner reservations at Arroyo Vino weeks ago so we headed there next. The drive was beautiful and we got to enjoy the sunset from the mountains. Our waiter was incredible and guided us through the wines and menu with ease. The food was outstanding and absolutely worth the hype. It was really nice to get to relax, enjoy a good meal with good people, and laugh all evening!

We listened to 90s and 2000s music on the half hour drive home in the dark. Y’all, New Mexico does not believe in streetlights. It was pitch black out, but you could see *every* star in the sky. It felt like being in a planetarium. It was surreal. We know pictures would not do it justice but we tried anyway…

We all showered and cleaned up. It was only 10:30pm in NM (but 11:30pm at home) but we were all tuckered out from a day of traveling and adventure. Steven helped me chase a very loud fly out of my room and then I caught up on all of my rights being taken away (re: the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade) before falling asleep.

Thursday, May 5

I slept like a queen and felt like a new person! I was up by 7:30am and heard someone stirring in the living room. I dozed on and off for a little while longer and messed around on my phone. There was no plan for the morning so I stretched in bed for at least an hour and a half. It was 32 degrees outside and I had no desire to get out from under the covers. It felt nice to stretch. Part of me was getting restless not having a plan so it was a good opportunity for me to practice patience and reframing. Instead of being anxious about the day, I worked on reframing it to be grateful for the opportunity to stretch, have quiet time, and charge up/fill my energy bank for the day. Sometimes, I fell asleep in a stretching posture. Namaste.

I heard the guys talking about their outfits for the day so I got up and got ready, too. I definitely did not feel like I packed the necessary clothes because of my suitcase limitations but whatever. Steven and Aaron were in the living room re-planning the day. We found out about the wildfires a few days before we left for the trip. Turned out, there were a lot of road closures and park closures around what they had wanted to do for the day (hiking and hot springs) so they were coming up with a new plan (hiking and hot springs… somewhere else).

Since we were hiking, they asked me to lead them through some stretches. I never say no to stretching! We finished getting ready, I borrowed Aaron’s A&M hat, we packed up the car, and got on our way to Three Gun Springs trail and hot spring.

The drive was long but beautiful. We lost service a lot; clearly, we were in the middle of no where. The New Mexico landscape was breathtaking and I never got tired of it.

We arrived around noon. I had to pee but there was no where to go… for me. Men have it so easy! The weather could not have been more beautiful!

We hiked for about an hour and a half. At some points, they were tens of yards in front of me. My little legs were struggling to keep up but they were both on a mission to find the hot spring. It was so uncomfortable wearing my swim suit under my hiking clothes so I was struggling a little bit (the top’s tie around my neck was straining!). Whether it was the pace, the altitude, something else, or a combo of everything, I struggled to breathe sometimes and had to stop for water a few times. Hydration, baby! It really felt like we were running up the mountain and I wish we could have gone slower to enjoy it more. Also, who knew we were hiking straight up a mountain instead of a leisurely afternoon hike?! It was nice but it was tough.

We snapped photos along the way. I hate how every picture of me turns out so I don’t know why I bother. I never know what to do with my body or how to pose… plus I look masculine. S’pose that is the consequence for wearing clothes for form, function, and comfort instead of cute. Sigh.

Steven kept saying we were almost there and I 100% snapped at him to stop saying that because we were *never* there. Was I overreacting? Yes, probably. Did I have to pee still and was I getting hangry? Yes. Did they have any idea of where we were going? No. It was a bad combo. I know they were both looking forward to the hot spring more than anything so I did my best to suck it up; the hike was nice, I was fine. There was an older woman hiking down the mountain and we stopped her to ask directions. She said the hot spring was really difficult to get to, off the trail, had no water, and was not worth it even if we did get to it. You could see the life drain from Steven and Aaron; I felt awful for them.

We turned around and found a shaded spot to eat our packed sandwiches and chips. We had some White Claw with us but the idea of drinking anything but water sounded horrible. The next nearest hot spring was in Santa Fe National Park (where we originally planned) but it was an hour and a half away at best. Steven still wanted to go so I hopped on board. He was obviously disappointed but said he mostly felt bad for us since despite me not mentioning it once, he knew I had to pee, and despite Aaron never saying anything, knew Aaron wanted to go in the water. It was sweet of him to worry about us but we were fine!

It took us about 35 minutes to hike down the mountain and get back to the car. Not surprisingly, it was much easier for me to keep up! Everyone had a little more pep in their step on the way back. Steven decided we should do the hot springs another day (smart). Secretly, I had wished he would choose that but I am glad he realized it on his own. My desire to be in water was fairly low.

Aaron and I climbed up a very large rock. Climbing up was easy, Climbing down was a little trickier. We supported each others’ feet like rock climbing nodes and that helped make it easier. So clever.

On our way home, we decided we earned a pitstop at Rumor Brewing Co., a nearby brewery. It was nice to sit, enjoy the weather, and have a drink.

Weed is legal in New Mexico and there was a smoke shop across the way. Steven could not go in because he forgot his license so I was sent in solo while Aaron got the car. Uhhh… I am the *worst* person to send into a smoke shop alone!! I had to wing it. Luckily, the sales guy was friendly and we had a great time picking out some stuff and chatting about yoga (he brought it up, I swear!). I was in there so long that Steven and Aaron got worried about me! Ha.

We listened to our queen, Taylor Swift, the whole ride home and it helped speed the drive up. It was Cinco de Mayo and we wanted margaritas so we stopped at the grocery story. No surprise, they were out of regular limes! They had mini limes so we took a chance. They let me drive the massive red truck the 2 miles to the Airbnb, too. It was fun!

Steven collected firewood and the lighting was perfect for a photoshoot. I made him stop and pose, not that he minded!

At home in Houston, Mike and I make a delicious pineapple salsa from one of our favorite cookbooks, Defined Dish. It seemed appropriate for our Cinco de Mayo celebration so we made fish tacos with pineapple salsa, chips and guacamole, and margaritas with mini limes. We ate, drank, and played Phase 10 all night. My pineapple salsa was not totally correct but it was still good! Steven made our second round of drinks: frozen pineapple jalapeno margaritas. They were insanely good. Color me impressed.

Mike and I briefly video chatted before I went to bed around 9pm. I needed time to wind down. I played on my phone for a little bit and once again caught up on all the latest political bullshit before going to bed.

Friday, May 6

I woke up at 7am with the plan to be out the door by 8am. The original event schedule only accounted for 1 day of hiking so I was not prepared with more clothing for another day of it and ended up wearing smelly clothes from the day before. That carry-on bag was really cramping my non-style.

They guys were over driving so I took the wheel this time and drove the almost 2 hours to the Jemez Hot Springs. It was a quiet drive; I was feeling anxious and Steven was jumpy. The scenery was similar to what we had seen so far but as we got closer to the hot spring, we saw amazing mountains and red cliffs. They were so beautiful. It was a winding road with a very slow speed limit so I was able to soak in the new sites.

We arrived at the man-made Jemez Hot Springs around 10am. Basically, it was a bunch of share warm and hot baths. The place was really nice and the guys were excited to get in the water. I, on the other hand, hate being in a bathing suit these days so was a little less excited. My nieces got me a “Best Gigi” bracelet for my birthday and it would NOT come off. I was worried about it in the water but *spoiler alert* it was fine. Whew. The weather was perfect, again, and it was nice to bask in the sun. It was 67 degrees but never felt like it. We spent about an hour hopping between the different baths. Luckily, we got there early so it was fairly open but there were a lot more people as we left. Glad we got there when we did!

Our plan was to go check out a few of the natural hot springs nearby. Unfortunately, every single one of them were in the national park which was 100% blocked off due to the fires. We had no phone signal and had trouble searing for alternatives. Steven had me pull over at a small country store so he could go in and ask for directions and help, the good ‘ol fashion way. They confirmed everything was closed and we were, in fact, SOL.

Since the hot springs were out, we needed to come up with alternative plans for the afternoon so we drove back to a beautiful dam we passed earlier, pulled over, and decided to explore. It was roped off but a single *rope* was not going to hold us back. It was so lovely! We snapped some photos and soon, others joined us. I guess one group breaking the “rules” gave permission to others to do the same? Our bad.

I stood up too quickly trying to crawl into a cave and busted my head open. The sound was SO loud and it hurt SO bad. We were all surprised I did not crack my skull open; that is how loud it was. It hurt more than I wanted to admit but, spoiler, I was fine. It also was way worse in person than it looked in the photos!

Steven wanted to go into the waterfall despite Aaron and I feeling very nervous about it! I made sure to grab his phone and the car keys just in case he fell in the water. He did great though and safely made his way back to us.

We asked a stranger to snap a group photo; it turned out to be our favorite photo of the trip! Check out our matching sandals! Don’t mind my askew sunglasses… they suffered their own damage when I hit my head.

A driver in a passing car slowed down to wag her finger at us (probably for going past the rope) as we made our way back to the car. Sass. We ended up passing cop cars on our way back to town so maybe someone told on everyone and we left just in time.

Our next stop was the Ancient Ruins of Gisewatowa Pueblo, a historical site we passed earlier. My head was throbbing and bleeding but I persisted. The site was lovely and quiet but we did not stay long. We were starving.

We sat outside for lunch at Los Ojos to continue to enjoy the perfect weather. The place was busy and as with everywhere these days, short staffed. It took forever for our drinks but was worth it! The drinks and burgers were either really delicious or we were just very hungry. My head was definitely getting worse, too.

I made the long drive home. We were all pooped. We got back around 3:45pm and did not have a lot of time to get ready and rest before going downtown for the evening for a wine tasting at Gruet Santa Fe. I talked to Mike a little bit and took ibuprofen before we headed out. Parking downtown was a complete nightmare and it made me really frustrated and flustered. It was my day to pay for things and re-downloading the parking app, resetting a password, etc. was a pain and made me even more frustrated. Not a great start but I kind of blamed my head hurting.

There was no plan before the wine tasting so we walked around, popping into different stores and shops. Aaron bought a hat and we saw a $20,000 couch. The house was great; the couch was yikes! The downtown square was really cute.

We tried to find a bar to hang out in to pass the time but had no luck so we headed to the wine tasting early. Luckily, they were able to seat us! The weather was still great and we had some pretty incredible lighting on the patio so of course we had a photoshoot. We enjoyed the wine quite a bit. None of us were hungry but it felt weird to not have snacks so we ordered some munchies.

The wine was really tasty but eventually I started to feel a little out of it (not in a “I drank too much way”) and we were all drained so we agreed to call it a night and head home. I made, what I thought, was a silly joke to Steven while walking back to the car and he snapped at me pretty hard. It was a very, very awkward and silent drive home. The sunset was absolutely insane. It was a perfect red sun with (sadly) smoke from the wild fire in front of it and a clear sky otherwise. I raced home to try and catch it but missed it by seconds, arriving back just after 8pm.

After the awkward exchange earlier, I did not feel like doing anything else and went to my room. I was convinced I was going to die in my sleep from the head injury so what did it matter anyway? All of the rooms had doors to the patio and since the Airbnb was so warm, I had cracked mine open. Unfortunately, that led to me hearing parts of Steven and Aaron’s conversation outside and it only made things more awkward. I texted with Mike and eventually fell asleep. Rough evening.

I learned later that the guys stayed up pretty late!

Saturday, May 7

I had zero desire to come out of my room in the morning. I was upset about the evening before and felt at my limit. Steven came to talk to me though: he interpreted my joke differently than I intended and felt personally attacked on a sensitive topic. He suspected something else was going on with me, too, and I told him that the lack of structure and plans were taking a toll on me. We talked and we were okay. Best friends are best friends for a reason!

We were out the door by 10:15am for our art-packed day, starting off with the Georgia O’Keefe Museum downtown. It was ticket-only for timed entries and there were no tickets for right that moment but thankfully we were able to get tickets for early afternoon. We walked to an early lunch at Cafe Pasquals since we were all hungry, anyway! The place was packed which we assumed meant it would be delicious. We put ourselves on the waitlist and walked around. I bought a keychain and Steven bought some local art. The wait was short and before we knew it, we were seated in the restaurant.

Lunch was incredible. Steven and Aaron’s meals were both better than mine but everything was great. Aaron and I split a dessert that had a super fluffy, light, cinnamon whipped cream to die for. I can still taste it. Mmmm.

The Georiga O’Keefe Museum was very interesting. I did not know much about her and I have a bad (or good?) habit of reading every single placard at museums so I learned quite a bit. It was a small museum so it did not take long to get through.

Our next stop was Canyon Road, a road outside of downtown filled with art galleries. Again, it took us forever to park but we found a spot. The extra walking is not bad when the weather is nice like it was. We popped in and out of different galleries. Some of the art was really incredible and impressive… some of it was… interesting. There was a large wall-size painting for $225k. Can you imagine dropping that kind of money on a casual, Saturday stroll? Also, where the heck are people putting these things?! It was kind of insane.

It all looked the same after awhile so we stopped at Ahmyo Wine Garden for a break. The place was a little busy but the atmosphere was nice. The bachelorette party ruined the good vibes from the live musician so after a glass of wine, we left. We all agreed it was time to go home.

Aaron and I both, by different parties, told to check out Meow Wolf during the trip. Saturday was our “art day” but it seemed like we were all over it for the day. It would have been nice to power through and go but none of us had the energy. We went grocery shopping at a random local store for local chiles for our second homemade dinner before finally getting home.

We made drinks, played Scrabble (I kicked their butts), watched Disney movies and had a low key evening. Steven made enchiladas – they came out AMAZING. He crushed it. We were all very, very impressed and tried not to eat *all* of them. Yikes.

For not doing a whole lot, we were wiped and called it an early night.

Sunday, May 8

I woke up, got ready to head home, and walked out into the main area into a clean kitchen! Aaron cleaned everything up from the night before on his own; beat us all to it. We definitely should have soaked the enchilada dishes. I was super, super grateful. We all cleaned up the rest of the place and made sure we checked off all of our Airbnb responsibilities. Our flights home were around the same so we loaded up the truck and made our way to the airport. We left earlier than we needed to, but why lounge around doing nothing when we were ready to go?

We had some time to kill at the airport so we shared breakfast, had a few drinks, shared photos, and reminisced about the trip. Aaron and I were on the same flights, in different rows this time, so we said goodbye to Steven; his flight was an hour later.

The plane on the way home had in-seat entertainment so I watched a movie and before I knew it, we were back in Houston. Aaron and I said our goodbyes and I headed to my car. Damn, that Houston heat!

I was happy to get home to Mike and Elliott. It was a short reunion because shortly after getting home, we headed out for Mother’s Day dinner at Zanti. Yum!

Santa Fe was so beautiful and it was nice to get away for a few days and spend time with such wonderful, fun people!

Until next time,

Jillian

PS – I officially moved into Mike’s house the next day! 🙂

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