In my post last Tuesday, I mentioned that there was more to tell on NPS project, but it would have to wait until there was some more time. Well, this morning there's more time, so here we go:
Part of this NPS project actually involved the three of us having to go out to Santa Fe for a couple days of training over Labor Day weekend (I'll refer to the other two students as H and J, just to help keep things straight). We were there from Thursday to Saturday evening, which was a little annoying but not too bad as business trips go. And considering that Santa Fe was a good 30 degrees cooler than Phoenix, well there are worse fates in life. It was an interesting trip, however.
We had to fly into Albuquerque because Santa Fe doesn't really have an airport. Okay, they have one, but it's basically a little strip of concrete, a guys with a pair of binoculars and a walkie-talkie, and an old sock on a stick. So Albuquerque it was. The flight was fine, no problems (not like Journey's and my trip to San Francisco). From there we had to drive to Santa Fe, which isn't too bad a drive, even if it is on I-25. The only problem is that our rental car was a little 4-cylinder, so trying to go up hills at 75 mph was a little challenging, but we made it fine.
Once we got into town, we found our hotel and right away knew that things were going to be "interesting." The Best Western we were staying at was right next to a closed down pawn shop advertising used guns in its windows, and there were a couple of police cars parked in the hotel's parking lot. These are not good signs. We checked in and headed up to our rooms. Mine was fine, if a little funky smelling (a few hours with the window open took care of that), and H's room was fine. But when J opened the door to her room, we found that the TV and lights were on, the bed was unmade, and there was a brief case sitting on the table. Luckily, there wasn't anyone standing there. We did, however, all go right back down stairs and reported this. The guy at the counter apologized and gave J another room, which was good. But it was what he said while doing this that disturbed us. He explained that since the doors had the swipe key cards, there was no way to quickly determine how many keys there were for each room. And how it was better when the keys were real keys because then you knew that there were only two of them. Yes, he's right about this, but J really didn't want to be told that!
From there we took the desk clerk's recommendation, and went over to a little place called the Blue Corn Cafe and Brewery, not far from the hotel. Pretty good. If you're ever in Santa Fe, I would recommend giving it a try. They have their own microbrews on tap - and you can get a sampler platter of all of them! - and their food was actually very good. Mostly Southwest fusion - a mix of Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and general Tex/Mex-ish foods. Just be prepared, some of the dishes are really spicy! I'm perfectly fine with spicy food, so I was happy, but some other people aren't. If you're one of those, you may want to check with your server before you order.
Friday was our first day in the office. That's when we started to get the details on our various projects and what the CLI program was. After a few hours of that, we (me, H, J, and our NPS contact) grabbed some lunch before heading out to Pecos National Monument. Pecos was cool, but we had to brave the threat of rain and coyote calls.
That night, H, J, and I went down to the Plaza for dinner at a place called (amazingly enough, given our trip to Pecos) the Coyote Cafe, at their Cantina. One of the really nice things about this place was that it was on an up-stairs patio, so you could see out into the rest of the Plaza and do some people watching while you ate. Unfortunately, their margaritas weren't anything special, but the food was pretty good and after a long day, we were all glad to just sit back for a while, eat, chat, and laugh. We tried to go out bar hopping after dinner, but we were all so tired that we only made it one place before calling it a night - at about 9:30.
Saturday morning was more training in the office, before going to a little place in the middle of nowhere for a lunch of green chile stew. I wish I could remember the name of this place, but it's gone. Oh well.
After lunch we went back to the office to pick up our stuff and hit the road for Albuquerque. Not five minutes after we got onto I-25, however, we got caught in a major rain storm. We couldn't see lanes on the road and it was starting to hail, so we joined the crowd of people pulling off onto the shoulder for a while to let the worst of the storm pass. Luckily, we only had to wait about 10 minutes or so before it was safe to start off again. Still not fun driving, but safe enough. We spent most of the drive back to Albuquerque either running from one storm or watching another to see if it was going to swing our way. We made it just fine, but it was not one of my more pleasant driving experiences.
All in all, it was a pretty good trip. We learned a lot, had some really good food, and made it back in one piece. And best of all, since it was Labor Day weekend, we still had two days before we had to go back to work!