(I took a little unexpected blogging break - but now I'm back and ready to share my whirlwind trip to El Paso, TX and Fayetteville, AR!)
The title sounds like an odd combination right - El Paso, Texas and Fayetteville, Arkansas in the same trip - it was, but still fun and super busy nonetheless. My coworker Pam and I planned two back-to-back SOAR forums in El Paso and Fayetteville. We knew it would be exhausting to go from one state to the next and hold the meetings on back to back days, but we figured if we could make it happen we might as well do it.
I left at 6:00 AM on Sunday and flew ALL day to get to El Paso. First stop was in Baltimore, MD followed by a flight to Phoenix and then another flight to El Paso. The first leg of the trip was the easiest. I flew Southwest which I have never had any issues with (unlike United), I received early bird check in which means bordered early and could pretty much sit wherever I liked (front window seat please!) and to top it all off Southwest was offering FREE in flight DISH Network TV! It was great, I got to catch up on all my Bravo shows and even watched a couple home renovation shows on HGTV.
Flying over New Mexico - the terrain was awesome!
The oddest part of the trip though turned out to be the best. My seatmate on the longest leg of the trip flight - Baltimore to Phoenix was ... a cat. Yep, a cat! It was either the most well behaved/chill cat I have ever seen or it was a little drugged because it behaved purrrfectly (pun intended!) and didn't make one noise the entire flight. Because my row-mate and I offered up the middle seat for the cat, we didn't have to sit three to a row and had the middle seat - except for the floor area - free! Not a bad deal.
My seatmate was a cat!
When I finally arrived I met up with my coworker and we headed to the hotel. It was HOT in El Paso but what everyone says about the dry heat is completely true - it was hot (upper 90s) but not sticky and I didn't sweat. Aside from the heat the one thing that completely floored me were the mountains. There is no other way to describe them than - BAM! Right there! - because they were (the start, or end depending on how you look at it, of the Rocky Mountains)! El Paso also borders Juarez, Mexico and the hotel where we stayed was approximately 1/2 mile from the border and I had an awesome view of Juarez from my room.
Welcome to El Paso!
View from my hotel room overlooking Juarez, Mexico!
We met some of the nicest people while in El Paso as well - namely our hotel shuttle drivers Jose and Gilbert. Both gave us excellent recommendations for places to eat (and drove/picked us up), answered all our questions about El Paso and gave us a history of the area. So after we were settled we headed out for an authentic Mexican dinner at L&J's Cafe! L&J's doesn't look like much from the outside and is known as the 'Old Place by the Graveyard' but when we walked in we realized just how popular the place was - there were so many pictures of famous people who had dined there. I ended up getting the chicken enchiladas with green sauce (a recommendation from Jose) and it was delicious! It is amazing (at least to me) how authentic Mexican food tastes nothing like the Mexican food I eat in the Northeast. The dish was also made with the whitest chicken I had ever seen!
Great authentic Mexican dinner from L&J' Cafe!
Menu at L&J's Cafe!
The old graveyard next to L&Js
Authentic (and delicious) Mexican!
The next day the forum went off without a hitch and pretty much right after it concluded we headed to the airport for the next leg of our trip. On to Fayetteville, Arkansas!
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Society - where our SOAR forum was held.
Seen on the way to the airport!
I do want to come back!
We flew to Dallas and then on to Fayetteville arriving at the hotel around midnight. We were up bright and early the next morning to set up for our forum in Fayetteville. Luckily, the forum was being held at the same hotel where we stayed so we didn't have to go far. Arkansas is my state so unlike in El Paso I was charged with presenting the bulk of the material, so I was both excited and nervous. In the end the forum went great and afterwards we had some time to kill before our flights so our local lead showed us around the campus of the University of Arkansas! We also stopped into Hog Heaven and bought some t-shirts to bring back with us.
Welcome to Northwest Arkansas!
My co-worker Pam in front of Hog Heaven on the University of Arkansas's campus!
HUGE chess and checkers games throughout the Fayetteville airport.
We left Arkansas - flew to Charlotte and I just barely made my connecting flight to Albany. I RAN from terminal E to C and got there just as they were starting to close the doors. It must have been fate though because my aisle-mate on the last flight of the trip was ... a dog. Unfortunately this animal was less well behaved, oh well. I ended up getting home around 1 AM - exhausted. We calculated that we took 7 flights in 65 hours!
All in all the trip was great - who would have ever thought that I would get the chance to visit El Paso, TX?! I should also mention that I am now completely sold on the Southwest and cannot wait to go back!