How We Spent Our First Transiiton Winter Vacation

We (Walt Bankes and Nan Schaller) began our first year of the RIT retirement transition program in the 2004-2005 school year. The transition program allows you to work two out of three quarters for two-thirds pay and full benefits for up to three years.  This means that we must  retire by June 2007, but may retire earlier.  We decided to work fall and spring quarters and to take our transition time in the winter quarter.  This year we planned a ten week, 8000+ mile road trip to visit relatives and friends around the US beginning December 7, 2004.  (Incidentally, the thing that differed most in all the places we visited were the gas prices!  They ranged from $1.51 in OK to $2.10 in NY.)


December 7: Our first stop was in Virginia where we visited our friends, Fred and Alison Schultz.  During this visit, Nan assisted Alison with some of her volunteer activities: cooking manicotti from scratch for 130 people at Alison's church and delivering Meals on Wheels to 30 households.  It was a fun way to try out these activities with no further commitment!  It was Chanukkah and we celebrated lighting of the menorah one evening with Alison's daughter, Laura Jean and Asher's childern; Walt also looked at property they were thinking about purchasing. As you may be able to tell, the weather was quite warm and lovely!

chanukkah  farm

December 9: Our next stop was in Sparta, TN to visit with two of Nan's sisters, Kay and Tina, and their families.  We had some rather rainy, chilly weather there.  Tina got Walt interested in rubber stamping as a way to decorate his RC sailboat and sails.  This stop marked the beginning of many visits during the trip to stamping stores.  Walt now has quite a collection.  

Most of our activities with the families revolved around meals.  Pictured here is our great-niece, Lexi, on one of those occasions.


December 14: Then we were on to Bartlesville, OK, home of Phillips 66, and Nan's brother, Henry, and his family.  Besides visiting, we went to see our niece, Amanda, perform in her Christmas pagent.

Amanda  Amanda and friends  

We also did some touring in the area visiting the Price Towers in Bartlesville, a Frank Lloyd Wright skyscraper, preportedly the only skyscraper designed by Wright to be constructed.  And, we visited the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, OK.

PriceTower  Will Rogers Museum

December 17: By now, it was a week before Christmas and we headed to Walt's daughter Stacy's home in Humble, TX.  We stayed through Christmas, enjoying a long visit with our grandson, Logan and his parents.  The weather was accommodating and it actually snowed Christmas Eve so that Logan got to throw his first snowballs!  Humble got just a dusting while places further south received 10 inches! Here is Logan with Charles and Stacy, looking at just one of his many presents!  Nan got her IKEA fix in Houston before we moved on.


December 27: Our next stop was to be El Paso, TX, but  as we were not able to make that trip in one day, we stayed in Sonora and visited the Caverns of Sonora. It is a lovely cave and is VERY warm and humid as it is still living.  Here are just a couple of the interesting formations: cave bacon and butterfly.

Cave bacon  butterfly

December 28: We took the Mission Trail into El Paso, visiting three missions.  These missions were all founded by the Spanish in the late 1700's when this area was still part of Mexico. There is an interesting website that provides 360 degree panaramas of these missions, so it is linked here.  More about the history is available as well. The first stop was San Elizario

San Elizario  San Elizario inside

The second was currently under restoration: Mission Soccoro

Mission Soccoro 1  Misison Soccoro 2

And, finally, Mission Ysleta

Misison Ysleta  Mission Ysleta Inside

We had a very relaxing time in El Paso, visiting with friends Ray and Linda Palmerez.  We saw a couple of movies, visited the National Border Patrol Museum and the El Paso Museum of Archeology, rode the Wyler Aerial Tramway

tramway  tram

and did a little hiking in McKellegan Canyon.


January 1: From El Paso, we headed to Ruidoso, NM where we skiied at Ski Apache on Sierra Blanca before heading onto Arizona. The road to Ski Apache is quite steep and twisty.  It is a little nerve racking to Nan in the best of weather.  By the time we came down the mountain after our ski we were in a bit of snow storm.  Many Texan and Mexican skiiers do not seem to know how to drive in the snow which made the ride down behind them challenging and long. :-)
Sierra Bianco

January 3: We stopped in White Sands National Monument where Walt invested in his Golden Age Pass.

White Sands

And viewed the Organ Mountains


We stopped in La Mesilla near Las Cruces where the Gadston Purchase was signed and had hoped to get lunch at La Posta, a postal stop on the pony express.  Alas, it was closed on Mondays, so we ended up at a very nice alternative called the Double Eagle.

LaMaseilla  LaMasilla  

Double Eagle    

January 4: Our next stop was in Tuscon where we visited the Pima Air and SpaceMuseum and the University of Arizona Museum of Art. We had dinner with Rick Mercer who teaches in the Computer Science Department there.
We also went out into the Sonoran Dessert Museum to watch the sunset

and drove south towards the Mexican border to visit Tubac and the  Tumacacori National Historical Park, another Spanish Mission.

January 7: Then it was on to Walt's son Steve and Family (Patricia and her daughter, Justina) in Phoenix.  We must admit we found Phoenix a bit trying.  We spent hours in the car to get anywhere!  Oh, well, at least the driving was well worth it to visit the Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art and Frank Lloyd Wright's Talieson West! One of the exhibits at the Heard was on the Indian Schools.  We later visited the site of the Indian School in Phoenix which is now a park.


Walt and I both took photos during this trip, but Walt's were in stereo.  Below are Steve and his family are viewing the stereo photos that had been taken that day.


Talieson West is the western version of Frank Lloyd Wright's Architecture School.  It was especially neat to see the drawings for the Price Tower on display here.

and the setting!

January 10/11: From Phoenix, we headed to Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, and the Grand Canyon, but alas the weather was torential rain and we decided to bag them.  Instead we tried to stop at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historical Park only to find it closed THAT day for construction.  We did get to see Hubbell's house, but not the trading post itself.  This was not one of our most stellar days! So, we stopped for the night and headed to Sante Fe via the Turquoise Trail the next day where we visited with Barbara Podrazik and Steve Martin. Walt has known Barbara since his Schenectady days.  (We bought a wonderful painting of Barbara's "Aspen Leaf" and are already enjoying it in our home!)

January 12: It started snowing, so we decided to take part of the High Road to Taos.  Nan wanted to take Walt to lunch at Rancho de Chimaya. Alas, it was closed that week (seeing a pattern yet?).  We did stop at Sanctuario Chimaya and at one of the weaving factories before getting in to Taos proper.  


The driving by this time was getting a bit iffy and we were a little nervous about being able to get to the Taos Ski Area the next day. But, we stopped and asked and were assured that it wouldn't be a problem.  January 13: So, despite an early morning temperature of 0 degrees F, we got out on the slopes quite early.  We had an absolutely superb day of skiing on their "easiest" slopes!

After skiing we visited the bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge. It was good that it was dusk so I couldn't see how high up we were until we walked back across the bridge.  The hike back was MUCH slower than out! :-)

January 14: We left Taos for Denver on a cold crisp morning. Before long we started seeing snow covered mountains in the distance. They were the Bianca and San Franscisco Mountains pictured below. In both of these images, we are approaching the town of St. Luis, CO, where we stopped at a market to by some bananas.  Walt purchased a bunch of bananas while Nan used the facilities.  After we got back in the car, Walt reported that the bananas had been really good, but very expensive, over $6.  Later the next day, Nan discovered that Walt had evidentally paid for a pack of cigarettes for someone as well as the bunch of bananas. :-(  We're waiting to see if the market responded to Nan's written request to return the money.  We're NOT holding our breath!

Mont Blanc  San Francisco

We drove through the Garden of the Gods on the way to Denver.  Then Nan shopped at the Trading Post there while Walt took a nap. It turned out that it was a good that we made this side trip as we didn't get back here as expected later on!

Garden of the Gods

Denver was to be our longest stay of the trip as our travel timing centered around two events: Christmas and the SIGGRAPH Courses jury to be held in Colorado Springs the first weekend in February.  Our friends and step neice and nephew, Pat and
Ed Lewis, were generous with their hospitality as were their "kids", Daryl, the golden lab, and The Dude, the cat. We stayed with them a total of two weeks with a week in between (January 21 - January 27) in Estes Park. Pat joined us for part of our stay in Estes along with Matt Shea from Half Moon, NY.

Estes Park had had a lot of snow in the couple of weeks before we got there, but Colorado was experiencing quite a warm spell. Daily high temperatures in Denver were in the 70's and 50's in Estes.  This limited our winterlike activities to hiking and wildlife viewing.  The photos below are from a variety of hikes. Hall's Ranch near Lyons. (These photos were taken by Pat Lewis.)

RamsHornVillage  HallsRanch


Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Bear Lake

Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.



The alluvial fan that resulted from a dam burst at Lawn Lake in 1992 (Rocky Mountain National Park).



Nymph and Bear Lake in the snow (Rocky Mountain National Park)!


And, we drove the National Park loop several times - Walt has already gotten well more than his money's worth from his Golden Age Pass.

One day we visited the Stanley Museum. It turns out the Stanley brothers, one of whom created the Stanley Hotel in Estes, were the inventors of the Stanley Steamer cars! We had seen one when we attended a Lewis and Clark lecture at the local historical museum early in the week. The photo on the left is of the lecturer and the one on the right is of Matt trying to get away with something. :-)


On another day, we ventured into Fort Collins to meet up with HJ Siegel and family (Janet and Skye).  We got there very early and did some touring in old town Fort Collins.


Matt stayed for a couple of days with us in Denver after Estes.  This was just in time to great his new great nephew who was born while we were in Estes.  We also took him and another friend from Schenectady, Sue Scharnowski, to visit Genoa Tower Museum and Antiques.  This place is a roadside attraction from a bygone era and is well-worth a stop ($1/person), even if you aren't into antiques.  It is purported that you can see six states from the tower, but since state lines are not marked on the earth, it's difficult to verify. (Those cars are FILLED with bottles!)



We also visited the Butterfly Pavillion in Broomfield, CO. They release newly hatched butterflies and moths twice a day and we just happened to be there at the right time. Matt also got to hold a tarantula spider.


After Matt left, we managed to get in one more ski day at Eldora, west of Boulder. It was another gorgeous day and they'd had some new snow. It's only an hour's drive from Pat and Ed's. Interestingly, Walt is eligible to buy a senior seasons mid-week (Monday - Friday) pass for $50! He'd only have to go twice to save money.

The weekend of February 4 found us in Colorado Springs where Nan spent two full days on the SIGGRAPH Courses jury while Walt tried to find something that was open.  He did get to the Mining Museum.

February 7:  We began our journey home from the Springs, running into some iffy (freezing rain) weather on the way. We made two stops: St. Louis, Missouri, to visit Ann and Aiden McNamara whose acquaintance we had made during our stay in Bristol in 1999, and in Dayton, Ohio to visit Walt's sister, Barbara and her friend Dave. While there we visited the U.S. Air Force Museum and played dominoes. Walt's 66th birthday occurred this week and he had THREE birthday parties!

Barb  Dominoes

February 13: Home at last! Back to our friends and toys, just in time to get ready for Spring Quarter and to have one more ski vacation!

Last updated, 20 February 2005