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Korean VA
Well, here we are. Five posts and over fifty pictures later, we finally reach the end of my vacation recap. It's like being subjected to a slide show at a relative's, huh? And when I say 'slide show,' I'm thinking of slide projectors, not anything having to do with PowerPoint. So, my reference is probably lost on some here.

Anyway, after taking on Roswell and Alamogordo, my husband and I drove up to the city of Santa Fe, which could have very well been on another planet. The towns we saw in southern New Mexico were working class, efficient, and had ties to the military. Santa Fe, however, has a high cost of living and is built around art, gourmet food, and tourism.

It's also distinguished by beautiful architecture, like its famous St. Francis Cathedral. Strangely, loitering ne'er-do-well teens like to hang out on its lawns. We asked if the church was cool with that and got a non-committal shrug, which I took to mean there wasn't much the church could do to stop it.

The inside was really beautiful too and simply filled with loitering tourists...

...who have apparently given the church some unwanted "donations" in the past.

Another of Santa Fe's most notable sites is the Palace of the Governors, a long building downtown where Native American artisans come out every day to sell jewelry and other crafts.

The food in Santa Fe is outstanding, and the Shed was probably one of the best restaurants we went to. It was recommended by my friend Amanda here, an old pal from western Michigan, who now lives in Santa Fe and was able to give us the insider secrets.

While in the area, we drove out to a museum in Los Alamos to learn about the Manhattan Project. We didn't get any pictures because Fat Man and Little Boy just don't get you that enthusiastic about photo-ops. Fortunately, there was some stunning scenery around the corner to get us excited again.

This is Bandelier National Monument, home to the ruins of an ancestral Pueblo settlement. There were ruins built straight into the ground like the shot above, as well as pueblos built into the cliffs. This is a picture taken from inside one of the cliff caves, looking out to the valley.

And it seems no matter where I go or how hard I try, I just can't get away from vampiric associations:

On our last day in Santa Fe, we decided to go on a walking tour of the city's sites. We later decided that's not such a smart idea on your last day in a place. By that point, we'd seen almost everything and were familiar with a lot of the history, much to the dismay of our tour guide...Pinky.

Pinky makes her living giving "wacky walking tours" of Santa Fe, telling the stories that "no one else will." I'm not convinced it was all that wacky, but then, I'm biased by Seattle's Underground Tour. I can say with certainty, however, that no other tour guide had wackier attire than Pinky, and she certainly knew her history. One place we hadn't visited yet was the Loretto Chapel.

You're probably thinking, "That's not a chapel, that's a staircase." It is a staircase--a miraculous one--inside the chapel. In fact, it's the chapel's claim to fame because it was allegedly built by a mysterious man who took no payment and created it in a way that "science" can't figure out. The wood is supposedly unidentifiable too, but I have a hard time believing that. Regardless, it's a beautiful structure and really is constructed in a cool way. Maybe it's alien, rather than angelic, technology, thus bringing us full circle in my vacation recap!

Because that's it! That was my New Mexico vacation, and believe me, it was needed. Since I work out of my home, I find that even if I'm not working, I feel like I'm still at work. That's no way to relieve stress. Book tours, while fun, are still work too, so it was high time I traveled somewhere with no writings, signings, or dressing up involved--and got to hang out with that guy I'm married to.

I'm home and back in the game again, right into the middle of Iron Crowned and Last Sacrifice edits. For those going to San Diego Comic-Con, I'll be there next week too, and my schedule is finally posted. If you're attending the con, I hope you'll come see me! Something cool's going to happen at my panel. My signing times are short, so if they're like some other cons I've been too, things may get so hectic that there are book limits and no posed pictures. We'll know more at the time.

Tomorrow: I have something awesome to post here, so be ready.


French Succubus Nights
Yes, there really is. We were on vacation for eight days in New Mexico, and there's no way we could have handled staying in Roswell for more than the three nights we did. It was time to move, on to see what awaited us in the...

That's a sign inside the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. It was a part of a timeline display showing man's progress throughout history. Clearly, they wanted to keep their options open for later. Like any good space museum, you could buy astronaut ice cream in the gift ship and see random cool things lying around. Like rockets.

I'd noted that Roswell was a military town, but its infamy is rivaled by Alamogordo, which is home to White Sands Missile Range, which is in turn home of the first nuclear detonation on US soil that we know of. Unsurprisingly, we were allowed nowhere near there, but a small piece of the pretty desert has been sectioned off for tourists like us to go check out.

You wouldn't think a desert would be fun for the whole family, but it apparently it is. The White Sands Visitor's Center sells sleds, and plenty of groups take advantage of them and the dunes.

My husband and I chose more dignified and tranquil ways of trekking out into the sandy depths. Hear, the heat is apparently making me think solitude and dehydration will trigger the next big story idea.

Meanwhile, my husband conducted experiments to see if lingering radiation in the area would make the sand do anything cool or break the laws of physics. It didn't.

This lizard, on the other hand, looks kind of suspicious to me. That blue is not a color found in nature. Methinks he's descended from lizards hanging around during the Manhattan Project days.

And what about these mysterious footprints? Who left these? Maybe aliens from Roswell! oooOOOOooo! Or, um, us.

After our long day of science and natural beauty, we drove out of Alamogordo, up to the mountains near Ruidoso and Nogal. There, we stayed at a bed and breakfast that was like my dream come true: its porch was surrounded in hummingbird feeders.

I love hummingbirds, as some of you may know from my failed attempts to attract them. I know it's crazy to those of you in the Southwest, but up here in the Northwest? It's just not so easy to lure those guys in. Fortunately, I could stand on the porch at our inn and watch swarms of them fearlessly fly near me without even flinching.

And that pretty much wrapped up our exploration of southern New Mexico. We set out the next day back up north to Santa Fe, which is a very, very different region--one that's worthy of its own post. It took about three hours to get there, and we had to drive through a lot of towns like this in the middle, towns made scarier by my lack of cell coverage.

But soon you'll see that it was well worth the journey, and my upcoming Santa Fe post will close up my vacation album, once again returning us to blog business as usual.

German cover of Frostbite
I do.

While visiting Roswell, my husband and I spent a good amount of time at the Roswell Mall. I mean no disrespect to it or the city,'s kind of a depressing place. That assessment can't come as a surprise to anyone who has visited the mall. It's a dying mall. You know the kind, where barely half the stores are open and the rest are boarded up or going out of business. There's always an eerie silence. I grew up with two malls like that, and I think my hometown might have three now. I have one close to where I live now. It's a sign of the economy's state.

These are sad malls, and I'm guessing a lot of the Roswell Mall's problems are coming from the proximity of Target and Walmart on the same street. There's still an active movie theatre adjacent to the mall, and the mall was also good enough to open its doors because the UFO Festival was constantly under fear of rain (which never came). That's how we ended up spending so much time there; events were constantly being rescheduled and moved there. The problem is, people didn't always know that, so there'd be a huge delay before things started, meaning we were often waiting around there with nothing except us...and the mall.

Oh, and Munchies.

Yep. Even a dying mall knows when to get in on its town's alien theme. And really, the rain fears were probably an awesome thing for the mall. It brought in people, who generated business by shopping and eating. It also brought in people who just hung out and did stuff like this.

Festivities also drew those who seemingly weren't alien-related at all. Like these superheroes. What do they have to do with a UFO Festival? Were they even sanctioned? I say don't question it. Just go ask for a picture.

I really, really wanted a picture with the Green Goblin, but it never happened. He high-fived me when walking by in the mall, and I swear he waved at me during the parade. My husband says I imagined that last part, though. Most of GG's focus was on children, either to promote family fun or to eat them.

But that's okay. I still got some celebrity photo-ops.

The mall hosted lots of stage performances, particularly UFOetry--my new favorite spoken word/multimedia/activist/musical group. We fell in love with them when an emcee described them as, "A group who sings about UFOs and, um, UFOetry." You can see these guys perform on the video I posted earlier.

ArcAttack!, a group I'm told was on America's Got Talent, also performed. I don't really understand the science here. It has something to do with Tesla coils and laser-looking-things shooting out to the guy while music plays. I'm not sure if it's normally this way or if the mall's space did it, but it was LOUD. Ear-shatteringly so. But very cool to watch.

With all the cool things going on, it's easy to forget my earlier comment about the mall's sad state. Go check the first picture if you've forgotten. It's sad, and I do sincerely hope the mall turns around. Who knows? Perhaps there's an easy solution for the mall to bring back business and beat out Walmart's encroachment.

That's right. Aliens serving snacks. These guys were out working the crowd for the UFO Festival, and I say they should be at the mall all the time. Heck, they should have these guys working the cash registers at JCPenney and Claire's. I would shop there all the time, even if I didn't need anything.

There was something going on at the mall every night of the festival, and one evening, the adjacent movie theatre did a screening of a UFO/alien documentary called Fastwalkers. It highlighted witnesses and insiders talking about alien conspiracy and was also where I was told that science is wrong. The film's producer, Robert Miles, was on hand to speak to the audience, and while I didn't always agree with everything in the film, I have to admire his and the others' passion. So, I'll give him and his movie a shout-out here. It's certainly interesting to watch, regardless of where you stand on aliens.

The festival brought all sorts of other things to the Roswell Mall: the mayor, Miss UFO Festival, local bands, local belly dancers, and local news anchors. One thing it did not bring was alcohol. The handful of restaurants in the mall didn't serve adult beverages, so we had to find them elsewhere. And when we found them, we hit the jackpot:

And believe it or not, that wraps up my Roswell pictures. My next posts will show the rest of our visit to other cities in New Mexico. But before I close this chapter, I want to address something a lot of people have asked. The UFO Festival was super fun and brought in lots of cool themed things, like the alien servers and pet costumes. All the businesses in town kept up the spirit with aliens on their signs. Here's the hard truth about the town, though:

There is no completely UFO-themed restaurant in Roswell.

There's no place you can go where servers are dressed up like aliens and serve you things like Martian Martinis. I so wanted to find something like that. Apparently, the only place remotely close to that went out of business a while ago. That kind of cheesey thing is big with tourists like me but not so much with locals--who make up the majority of restaurant patrons. So, for fans of the Roswell TV show, I think we all know what this means:

Little Dhampir
Okay, now that we've seen the outer shell of Roswell, it's time to delve deep into its core. My husband and I specifically timed our trip there to line up with the UFO Festival, an annual event every Fourth of July weekend to commemorate the "incident" in July 1947.

Contrary to my initial belief, people do not flock from all over the world to attend the festival. Most people there are locals, and it has more to do with community entertainment than hardcore UFO examination (see my reflections for more on this). Nonetheless, there were two alien/UFO tracks going on. One was the fun, showy side. The other was the serious, scholarly side. Let's start with the first.

I think it goes without saying that the only real way to celebrate a UFO festival is by dressing your pets up like aliens and make them compete for cash prizes:

Our itinerary was carefully scheduled to make sure we made it to this event, and there was some panic it might be rained out. Happily, it wasn't.

This year's costume contest was special because it had the first cat ever to be entered. He actually took second place but doesn't look happy about it. In fact, I kind of get the feeling that if he could shoot lasers from his eyes (like his bio said), his owners would have been incinerated on the spot.

First place went to this little guy (girl?) who showed up in real style, possibly in the original space craft since it was allegedly made out of aluminum-esque material. Third place went to a guinea pig, whom I don't have pictures of.

After the pet contest came the human one, which I wasn't nearly as excited about. Others were, however, and it was one of the most well-attended events at the whole festival.

The human costume contest was split into four categories: most creative, scariest, best movie/TV character, and best overall. Each of those were split into adult and child categories. This was the overall child winner. I admit it's pretty impressive, but I'm not 100% sure it wasn't originally made for a Native American project at school.

This is the overall adult winner (they were a duo acting as one entry), and no picture can do credit to it. These were genius. The outer shells spun, making it impossible to see the people inside. It was all glittery and fast but was built in a way that let them still walk easily. I should have taken video.

This was the child winner for the best resemblance to a film/TV character. Only, I don't know who she's supposed to be. Her tagline was "Pow-Pow, Meow-Meow!" Whoever she was, she was adorable.

One of the most advertised events of the festival was the "Amazing UFO Parade." It was a little short on UFOs. Also short in general. But, both viewers and participants were excited, which is what counts. Among the non-UFO things were: belly dancers, Marvel superheroes, and KITT from Knight Rider. Why KITT? Well, why not. If ever there was a parade for a talking car (and it talked), then this is it.

The festival's big celebrity presence was Wes Studi from Avatar and Last of the Mohicans. Wes judged the costume contest and seems like a super nice guy. I never talked to him or anything, but you could always tell he was having fun the whole time and totally throwing himself into the role of the fest's special guest.

Ah, now these guys look like they're part of an alien-themed parade!

These guys? Hmm. Unclear. But Elmo isn't exactly earthly, so we might give him a pass.

Check it, yo. A UFO in the UFO Parade! And on a tractor, no less.

Very cool looking aliens who were out walking at the parade. Except...they weren't in the parade. Maybe Elmo stole their spot.

The Visitors Center (no pun intended) was near the parade and contained lots of exhibitors and vendors. Among them was local company Martian Salsa. I promised I'd pimp them out here because unlike many others, these folks didn't charge you to pose with their aliens. You didn't even have to buy their salsa. Other vendors were charging $1-5 to sit next to a cardboard cut-out. Not cool. So kudos to you, Martian Salsa, for your delicious product and great photo-ops.

Tomorrow: the Roswell Mall. Yes, that's right. It gets an entire post devoted to it.

Diversity Kittens
As promised, it's picture time from last week's New Mexico vacation! Some family and friends have already seen these, but now it's time for the wide, wide world to share in the fun. In browsing our set, it looks like I may have to do multiple posts to get them all up here. Roswell alone has, like, 60 pictures. So let's go!

When you first arrive in Roswell, it looks like any small, military town. You drive down a main road filled with familiar restaurants and store chains. Then, you start noticing something unusual about those so-called familiar places. Like, say, that they've put aliens on their signs.


Or that they're running their business out of a UFO.

And, just in case you're totally oblivious to what's up in this town, the street lamps are designed to scare the living crap out of you at night. Maybe even in the day.

The crown jewel of Roswell's UFO culture and history is, unsurprisingly, the UFO Museum and Research Center.

A new UFO Museum is being built. Most of the exhibits in the current one consist of articles and "reports" laminated and/or pasted onto posterboard. FYI - Hot Molnija fashion is available here.

Naturally, there are still visuals, which are essential for those bringing kids (who tend not to be so interested in reading declassified government documents). And we all know alien autopsy recreations are fun for the whole family:

This model shows what the UFO crash site looked like. If anyone had enough info and detail about the crash to build this, it doesn't seem like there'd be much question about whether this is all real. So, I'm going to go ahead and say this obviously came from a military/government whistle blower.

Handy pictures also provide quick and easy references to help you learn about aliens. Spelling, less so.

I actually had a good time reading about all the eye witness accounts and evidence for and against a UFO cover-up. But let's stop kidding ourselves, you guys. We all know that the real reason I went to Roswell was for gems like this:

Oh, man. I love themed towns. I love over-the-top merchandising. And I really, really love campy stuff. Roswell fulfills all of those criteria, and there are more products with aliens on them than you can shake a stick at, products that probably shouldn't have aliens on them. This is allegedly Roswell's first alien gift store:

This place points out that a 60-year-old UFO, naturally, should be in an antiques store:

This store operates on the idea that there are only three kinds of souvenirs you come to the Southwest for, so why should you have to go from store to store to get them?

Finally, this store attempts no clever marketing or gimmicks. They know exactly what you're here to shop for. Yeah, that's right. Alien stuff.

Seriously, how I didn't spend all my money on crazy souvenirs in this town is inexplicable. I mean, can you ever have enough inflatable aliens? There's also a lot of pressure from locals to get you to stock up on stuff too because when you don't help boost Roswell's economy, aliens get sad. And nobody wants that.

Next time: pictures from the UFO Festival itself, including the alien pet costume contest!

This space for rent

Admiral Ackbar Cereal
Leaving Roswell was hard, but New Mexico is a big state, and we have a lot to see on this vacation. Today, my husband and I trekked out to Alamogordo, famous for its proximity to a number of military sites and the White Sands Missile Testing area--home of the first nuclear explosion. Adjacent to that site is White Sands National Park, where you can enjoy the beauty of that white, gypsum desert landscape without risking national secrets or getting radiation poisoning.

People recommend going to White Sands National Park in the morning or evening, both because it's cooler and because the setting/rising sun looks pretty on the sand. Naturally, we ended up there in the peak of the afternoon--when our rental car's outdoor thermometer read 99 degrees (F) out. Yikes! Interestingly, it did get cooler the farther we got into the desert, and we're guessing that's because of the light-colored sand reflecting heat back. But keep in mind, when I say 'cooler,' I mean 91 degrees. It was pretty hot, and we were happy that most of the park is done via a driving loop. We did get out a few times to walk the dunes (pictures coming, of course), and lots of families were out there sledding and having picnics!

We also visited the New Mexico Space History Museum, which showcases exactly what its name suggests. So, I learned all about the X Prize, early space missions, meteors, and those inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame. It turns out Galileo and Isaac Newton were only inducted within the last 5 years, which seems like kind of a raw deal to me. Better late than never, I guess. We also came to the conclusion that everything sounds much cooler with 'space' put in front of it. Space Friend. Space Medicine. Space Stuff. Space Dog. Space Space.

The museum has an impressive IMAX theatre, so we watched a movie called Hubble about the telescope of the same name. If by chance you can catch it, you should. It documents some of the telescope's history, efforts made to repair it, and the amazing footage it's sent back. Leonardo DiCaprio narrates the film, and by the end, you feel insignificant and totally dwarfed by the sheer awesomeness and size of the universe. I started to feel like maybe those guys at Roswell were right, and there are 57 races of aliens walking the earth with us. If they can get Leo to narrate a film for them, I think the public could be in for some serious persuasion.

More adventures tomorrow as we move onward through the state.

PLEASE! Mark all spoilers in your comments.

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I have red hair and subsist entirely on Kona coffee.

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