After departing Tulsa we traveled across eastern Oklahoma to spend several days in the Bentonville – Rogers (B-R) area of northwestern Arkansas. The B-R area is, of course, home to the world’s largest retailer – Walmart. As exciting as that is, our desire to visit the area emanated from the opportunity to bike the Razorback Greenway and, most importantly, visit the Onyx Coffee Lab. Having said that, there is plenty to do in the area in addition to biking and drinking coffee and tea. More on that at the end of the post.
Onyx Coffee Lab was founded in 2012 by husband and wife team Andrea and Jon Allen. In the relatively short period of time since founding Onyx they have achieved a world class reputationin the specialty coffee business(with good reason).
As we entered the building for our first visit we were stunned – the space is gorgeous. The size and scale is beyond anything we had ever experienced in regard to specialty coffee.
In this soaring space, Onyx has captured the ultimate coffee experience including the important transition from caffeine to alcohol. Under this one roof there is the cafe, the roastery, a pastry shop, a cocktail bar and a restaurant as well as meeting and event facilities.
Perhaps it goes without saying,but we will say it -everything we ordered was impeccably presented and delicious.
Onyx boasts six roasters at the Rogers HQ location.Many cafe/roasters of necessity have their roastery located in warehouse type facilities away from the cafe. Onyx (with its 30,000 sq ft of space) has placed the roastery out in the open for all to see and enjoy. As you can see in the photograph directly below they have created a bar directly in front of the roastery to allow for viewing the process and interacting with the roasting staff. So cool!
The Bentonville Cafe is close by the town square and is an aesthetically pleasing cafe in its own right. Despite the large amount of seating it can be difficult to find a seat if you arrive during the morning rush – an amalgamation of locals heading to work and tourists in need of that first hit of magic elixir. Regardless, make it a priority to spend time here if you find yourself in Bentonville for any reason. The local folks are friendly and will chat you up gladly.
The Taos Pueblo has been in existence for 1000 years. The first Europeans to arrive in Taos were the Spanish – who initially maintained friendly relations with the Tiwa Indians who inhabited the pueblo.
Afer a relatively short period of peaceful co-existence the Spanish exerted their might and will over the Tiwa, and as they would do many more times in the west, instituted rule over the indians and imposed Catholicism.
While the Town of Taos was incorporated in 1934, the Taos Pueblo has been continuously inhabited by the Tiwa Indians since its founding. The pueblo has about150 residents with another 1750 Tiwa living on pueblo lands.
The Town of Taos is a major tourist destination with a myriad of outdoor recreational activities including alpine skiing at the world class Taos Ski Valley. Taos is also a noted art colony dating back to the migration of eastern artists to Taos Valley and the formation of The Taos Society of Artists in the early 20th century.
Rio grande gorge
The Rio Grande Gorge is atypical of canyons this size in that it is a massive rift in the earth with the river filling the bottom after the formation of the rift. The gorge is 50 miles long and 800 feet deep at its deepest – quite impressive!
The river itself is impressive as well. The Rio Grande is the fourth longest river in North America. The river runs from Colorado through New Mexico (470 miles) and then forms the border between Texas and Mexico until it empties into the Gulf Of Mexico. The total length of the river is between 1800 and 1900 miles.
We hiked along the west rim of the gorge, enjoying the views of the river below, the mountains to the east and west and the Big Horn Sheep dotting the edge of the rim.
We had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at the Taos Museum of Art at Fechin House. We will share photographs of some of the wonderful paintings and the architecture of the Fechin House in an upcoming post.
After a brief but exhilarating visit to Moab (see post Moab = Fun and Adventure) we set out for Durango across Utah 46 which becomes Colorado 90 at the border. Colorado 90 is a gem – a beautiful ride up into the Southern Rocky Mountains within the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The pass at the top of route opens up to the panorama of the Paradox Valley. The majority of this route is very remote and we would not advise traveling this road in winter weather.
The Paradox Valley is a remote, thinly settled and beautiful place. The valley is approxiamtely 25 miles long running in a north – south direction. The width of the valley is between three and five miles. The paradox that led to the naming of the valley is the unusual east to west flow of the Dolores River which cuts across the valley, as opposed to running the length of the valley.
A Canadian company proposed building a uranium mill in the valley in 2009. Fortunately, the project was abandoned in 2020. As much as we recognize the need for extractive industries it would have been a shame to alter the beauty and character of this place with a uranium mill and everything that comes with the extraction of radioactive materials.
We were looking forward to taking a break at the Bedrock Store (serving outlaws since 1881). The Bedrock Store was used in the filming of the movie Thelma & Louise. Unfortunately, the store was not open.
We made a brief stop in Durango, CO enroute to New Mexico. Durango is a mountain town which sits just below 8000 feet above sea level and is a base for the alpine ski mountains in the areas. The town sits along the Rio de las Animas Perdidas which provides wonderful scenery for the bike path nestled on the bank of the river.
As you might surmise from the photos we were quite taken with Taste Coffee as well as barista and co-owner Mike Clarke. P.S. There is a narrow gauge railroad that runs from Durango to Silverton – which we did not ride because we left town to avoid a predicted snowstorm – but it looks like a lot of fun.
With heavy snow predicted in the Western Rockies we re-routed due south into New Mexico – stopping to visit the puebloan ruins located in the town of Aztec, Colorado.
The Aztec Ruins National Monument is located in the town of Aztec, New Mexico. The ruins are 900 years old. We utilized the excellent self-guided audio tour to explore the ruins. This is an impressive site with over 400 rooms and an a restored Pueblo Great House. It is well worth the visit if your travels will be taking you to northern New Mexico. ( https://www.nps.gov/azru/index.htm )
Change of plans
After our overnight in Chama we traveled north and east across Colorado Route 17 to access the Carson National Forest for our planned overland trip from the border to Jemez Springs, NM. When we arrived we found the forest roads still covered in snow with mud underneath. This is a bad recipe for safe travel on narrow mountain roads so we decided to hold off on overlanding (no paved roads) until conditions improved.
We decided to visit Taos while waiting for better conditions on our overland routes. We will report on our stay in Taos in our next post.
After departing Fort Wayne we decided to make a couple day stop in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus has three of the things we look for in a city: excellent third wave coffee cafes, a vibrant street art scene and distinctive neighborhoods.
While our stay was brief, we did quite a bit of walking through the various neighborhoods searching for murals. Of course, we fueled up at the coffee cafes that are conviently located in the various villages or districts.
Columbus has taken full advantage of the river waterfront (Scioto River) by creating many public greenspaces providing access to the riverfront for recreation and entertainment.
We will definitely weave Columbus into a future journey to get deeper into the museum and restaurant options (post pandemic) in addition to the coffee, street art and neighborhood history.
We hope you enjoy the selection of street art we have included in this post.
We departed Gorham, New Hampshire driving due east on Route 2 to Bethel, Maine. https://www.sundayriver.com/ In Bethel we took a break at DiCocoa’s Bakery & Cafe for coffee, tea and delicious baked goods. We highly recommend stopping here when you are in town. http://www.cafedicocoa.com
From Bethel we traveled north on Route 5 where we stopped in Andover for provisions. Andover is a small town in western Maine that dates back to 1788 and its roots as a lumber town go back to those early days. Ethan Allen Furniture operated a sawmill there until 2009.
This region of Maine has seen almost no Covid-19 cases and we did not see a single local resident wearing a face mask. When we entered the local grocery we were advised that “we don’t wear masks here, when it is your time it is your time”. Good luck………
Because of it’s geographic location Andover was chosen as the site of the Andover Earth Station, one of the first satellite earth stations. This antenna installation was utilized to communicate with the Telstar 1 satellite which provided the earliest satellite television and telephone service between Europe and North America. The original antenna was dismantled in the early 1960s. Currently the site is operated by Verizon in support of their satellite communication network. Today, Andover is primarily a destination for hunters and fishing enthusiasts.
After provisioning in Andover we traveled north through South Arm and into the backcountry of the Richardson Public Reserved Land Trust. There are 37 land trust areas in Maine. The land trust areas provide dispersed camping opportunities in addition to a multitude of outdoor recreation activities. https://www.nrcm.org/explore-maine-map/public-reserved-land/
Part of our reason for heading to the Richardson Lakes area was the opportunity to put the Beast into 4wd mode on the many forest and logging roads and trails that run through the reserve. We spent a fun afternoon circling around the perimeter of the 22,000 acre preserve before heading to Worthley Lake to camp.
After our night at Worthley Pond we made the short trip to Hallowell to spend the day poking around in this historic town situated on the Kennebec River. The town was first settled in 1762.
The town has a prosperous history which was driven by the logging, shipbuilding, granite and ice industries that benefited from access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Kennebec River. Ice from Hallowell was taken by sailing ships to Cuba and various Caribbean Islands.
Today the town is a tourist draw with its many restaurants, pubs, shops and art galleries.
As many of you know, we are coffee and tea fans and were very pleased that Hallowell is home to Traverse Coffee Co located right in the heart of town on Water Street. Highly recommended. http://www.traversecoffeeco.com
From Hallowell we made our way to the coast and the lovely town of Boothbay Harbor. The town sits on a peninsula which extends into the Bay of Maine and as such is a popular summer vacation destination and yachting center.
Our friends Dianna and Scott were vacationing in Boothbay Harbor while we were in town and they graciously allowed us to bivouac on their property during our stay.
While in Boothbay Harbor we visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. This botanical garden is an absolute gem located on apx. 300 acres. The gardens are thoughtfully designed for touring and there are walking trails that provide access to the Back River which abuts the property. https://www.mainegardens.org/
The gallery below consists of photographs taken by the talented photographer Phoebe and feature her sister Penelope.
In addition to the botanical gardens we spent an afternoon in town at the harbor. Again we were blessed with an excellent coffee cafe in the heart of the shopping and restaurant district along the harbor. Highly recommended. http://www.brisettos.com
Portland was our destination after departing Boothbay Harbor. We had not visited Portland since 2011 so we were excited to get back to the city and see if the food, coffee and art scene is as vibrant as we remembered.
We spent our first afternoon walking around the city mural hunting and quickly found a plethora of fine works both authorized and unauthorized. We have included several works here but would refer you to our earlier post: Street Art From The Road:OTR 5.1 which includes a selection of murals from around Portland.
The third wave coffee scene in Portland has grown since our last visit but we continue to place Tandem Coffee at the top of our list. In addition to the great coffee the Congress Street cafe has an excellent bakery.
We made our first visit to Speckled Ax Coffee. This roaster and cafe operator opened in 2012. The coffee is excellent. Speckled Ax is unique in that they wood roast their coffee – not a common or easy way to roast coffee – but they have certainly mastered the technique.
After taking in a nice sample of the street art and coffee scene we took advantage of the wonderful weather to ride the Casco Bay Ferry across the bay to Peaks Island. The island is about three miles off shore from the Portland waterfront and the ferry ride is just 20 minutes.
Peaks Island is part of the city of Portland but does have its own police station, post office and elementary school. Post elementary students ride the ferry to and from the mainland to attend school.
The full time residents of the island have a long history of trying to secede from the city – most recently in 2011 when the city reevaluated properties on the island and property taxes increased by over 200%. As with previous attempts to secede the Portland City Council Council voted no.
Ah well, a beautiful spot to visit even if you cannot afford to own a house. We took in the island scenery on a rented golf cart and dined on fresh sea food before returning to Portland
Portland happily is as handsome and interesting as we remembered. From Portland we meandered along the coastline and stopped for a hike as we made our way to Portsmouth for our final overnight before returning to Connecticut.
Our final day on the road required a short detour to Dover to check out locally renowned Flight Coffee and fuel up for the final leg to The Fort. A nice cafe for planning your next adventure! https://www.flightcoffeedover.com/
We thoroughly enjoyed our brief swing through Maine as the final segment of our brief return to the road. While all aspects of travel are not back to pre-pandemic conditions we think the country has opened up enough to allow life on the road to be enjoyable and safe. To that end we plan on departing The Fort in October for a fall tour of West Virginia and Virginia.
We could not actually make it back to Connecticut without more coffee and tea so we ventured into The Grid district of Worcester for fika and found several fantastic murals to boot. Life is good.
We accelerated the pace of our return home to the Fort as more towns, counties and states issued tighter restrictions on a daily basis. Ever in need of espresso and tea to sustain the journey we did venture into a number of towns for take out beverages and food. While passing through we usually managed to take a quick tour of the historic or downtown areas before departing for our next fika.
Below are some photos from the final days of OTR 4.0.
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Video Clip, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
C.S.A. cannons on Seminary Ridge, Gettysburg Battlefield
We traveled from Torrey to Escalante on Scenic Byway Route 12. The views from the sinuously curving road with were breath-taking, especially from the summit at 9,600 feet. Stopped at Lower Calf Creek to hike to the falls, and, finally in Escalante, a good capuccino (with a view) at Kiva Koffeehouse–Stephen’s vacation is complete!
On Sunday we took the day off from skiing and snowshoeing and hit the road to visit the “big city” of Nelson (pop. 10,000). The ride up provided the excitement of driving through the Nancy Greene Summit Pass (check out the video) and then motoring along the Kootenay River (pictured below). Of course, a major goal of our trip was to find the best coffee roaster in the region.
Happily, we can report that we had productive and delicious stops at Oso Negro Coffee Roastery and John Ward Fine Coffee both located on Ward Street.