the great american road trip take 4: breckenridge to taos, or payback's a b!+€#

You know what they say . . . . payback's a b!#€#.

Today I got mine.

After 4 days of swerving through mountain passes, riding cable cars, and basically forcing Punk to participate in a Fear Factor type road trip, we left our gorgeous Breckenridge home, and headed toward, well, my version of hell.

It was an unplanned stop, and completely my idea, so I have no one to blame except myself, and blessedly the horror was book-ended with some lovely stops, so maybe I'll just start there.

Our traveling companions said an early goodbye, and the five of us spent the morning packing up and preparing for the ride to Taos, New Mexico.  Our first stop was Mary's Mountain Cookies in downtown Breckenridge. Kooka chose the Chocolate Avalanche - two fresh chocolate chip cookies, with a giant scoop of melted fudge sandwiched between. Yoda and I shared a Bluebird - fresh blueberry-cream-cheese frosting smoothed between two warm snicker doodles. Punk took the Cookie Dough Delight - two chocolate chip cookies with heaps of cookie dough in the middle. Rico sampled them all, gagged and ate his caramel fudge instead.

It wasn't long before we hit South Park, Colorado. Yep - the South Park.  I took Punk's picture in front of the chamber of commerce building which not only has a hand painted picture of the South Park characters on the door, but also a giant poop (Mr. Hanky - for those of you in the know). Punk thought it was great fun to say he was in South Park, but honestly the cartoon has completely overblown this place. It was basically a ghost town. The massive turd was the most exciting there.

We stopped in the middle of nowhere at Tonys for lunch and then loaded ourselves back in the van, for what I thought would be a fairly uneventful 3 hour trip to Taos.

I will preface this by saying that I am a moron. Boredom must have completely overtaken me, because this little side trip was my idea in the first place.  You'd think that I'd drive right past a sign that said "Colorado Gators" - but no - I convinced Rico to stop, and still can't believe I did.

The first giveaway to what this place is all about is the sign. You can see it in the picture. No need for me to repeat it, but as you can tell by the look on Punk's face, there was no way we were skipping out on this experience.  

I tried to go in - I wanted to be the cool mom who could take this, but it was impossible. If I went to hell, this would be it.

The Colorado Gator Farm in Mosca, Colorado is a working Tilapia farm, where gators were originally brought in as garbage disposals to get rid of the dead fish. The place has since grown into a refuge/breeding ground for crocodiles, turtles, venomous snakes, lizards, ostriches, emus, and free range rabbits - which I suspect merely escaped from the food bin. The place doesn't sound toooooooo bad, until you realize that it is also in a word - "disgusting."

The open ponds reek and are filled with old tires so the gators dont get "bored". The dead carcasses of ancient gators are left to rot (or worse) in the sun. The rabbits "escaped" from their cages when we were there and nobody seemed to care. There was barely more than chicken wire keeping the critters at bay, and the giant ostrich attempted to rip Yoda's hand off (would have succeeded too if we hadn't intervened). The baby gators were kept in a rusty tank. The 14 year-old gator wranglers would grab one, hand it to you for a photo with the assurance that they weren't strong enough yet to "actually bite through bone" - just sever flesh and arteries. The sign leading into the dark, unkempt snake hut, read, "this facility has been accident free for 1 hours".  What kind of accident wasn't specified, but in a little shed filled with diamondbacks, bull snakes, 30-foot boas - I really didn't care to find out.

I must admit, that I couldn't bring myself to do much except pace in the gift shop, and keep a death grip on Yoda.  Rico proclaimed the place to be "quite possibly, the dirtiest, most unsanitary facility that he has ever seen in his life." The type that's great if you're an escaped coral snake protecting her nest, but not so great for the rest of us. Even Punk said it was really really really unhygienic, which is saying something for a 13 year old boy.

I am still trying to wash the stink and skeeviness off of me. I know there will be nightmares tonight.

But our day had a spectacular finish. We stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge bridge right outside of Taos. We bought souvenirs from the local artesians, a spit over the bridge to see how long it took to hit the bottom (20 seconds). We pulled into our cute little adobe hotel, brought chiles, soppapillas and pizza in for dinner, and settled down to a Friends marathon (Punk and Kookas new show of choice).