Monthly Archives: September 2016

One More Day

Basically, today was a day of “from there to here.” We left Twin Falls, Idaho (or Jerome, they’re very close together) early because we were confused by the difference of time zones. That comes from being too lazy to change our watches for just two days! At any rate, it got us up and on the road.

2016-09-23-09-10-47Interestingly, after over 5,000 miles and 12 hotels, yesterday we discovered the luggage gondola. Because it was raining so heavily when we arrived last night, we took the easy way out and piled the luggage cart while the car was still under the front awning of the hotel entrance. It was so amazingly easy! And it held all manner of things: our many little bags, computers, ice chest, and books, etc. What were we thinking before? Why had we never discovered one of these handy contraptions before now? Well, I guess the advantage of lugging our luggage around is at least we got the benefit of the exercise. After sitting so long in the car on most days, it was the least we could do. But tonight, you guessed it, we grabbed one of those handy gizmos and used that thing called a luggage cart again. It must be time to be home.

2016-09-23-12-04-53-2The first half of the day was dark and rainy with the remnants of the tail end of a hurricane from the day before. As we drove north we drove out of some of it, but the winds picked up and they were strong and gusting up to 60 mph (per weather reports.) Our little Prius, Dixie, had a hard time with the headwinds. She struggled to get about 35 mpg during that stretch of bad weather. Later in the afternoon, the sky turned into thin clouds and finally, sun. As we crossed into Oregon we felt like we were in familiar territory.

A little lunch at the same Mexican restaurant in Baker City, OR that we had stopped at on the first day out and it was worth the second stop. (Yes, it really was that good! And lunch was excellent as well.) If you are ever in Baker City, be sure and stop at “El Erradero.”

2016-09-23-10-14-05More scenes of familiar rolling hills of Oregon while we listened to “The Irregulars” and the miles flew by. My driver made and impromptu stop at Pendelton and took me to the woolen mills outlet store where he bought me an authentic Pendelton wool blanket. He said after wanting to buy a Navajo blanket in Arizona and seeing the prices, he decided a Pendelton blanket was cheap at twice the price. Both are beautiful works of art and certainly worth every penny . . . but, the Pendleton one will come home with me. He picked out a lovely teal and tan design that matches our front room. I’ll be snuggle-y warm this winter while watching TV.

Our stop for the evening is Hermiston, OR and dinner took us to a local establishment that had four and a half starts on the internet food search for the area. But, once we arrived, we learned that all the tables were reserved and we couldn’t get a seat until after 8:30. So, we just went to another place. It had four stars. How much better can a half a star be?

2016-09-23-18-45-49Well, “Hales” was a down home, family-style pub with single plates that could feed the whole family. Since we set out so early this morning, this was one of the first days we actually stopped for a second meal, and we couldn’t hardly eat more than a taste of things. The portions were gargantuan. They were served on 12 inch plates. Who eats off a 12 plate? That’s the size of a whole pizza! We did savor the flavors and extolled the goodness of each item, but we will be finishing our meals for breakfast and maybe even lunch as well!

One last night away from home. And, we are eager to get there. One of the graces of leaving home is that one always tends to look forward to BEING home before one actually gets there. If we never left we would never know how much we appreciated it . . . or, how much we missed it. We have seen marvelous sights and our country is a treasure trove of beauty, but there is nothing like the beauty and the comfort of home. One more day!

Making Tracks

Today we made tracks for home. Leaving Cedar City, Utah about 9:30 (MT) we made it all the way to Twin Falls, Idaho.

It wasn’t all driving. We stopped in Provo, UT for a comfort stop, a coffee and some lunch. Interestingly, it was the very same stop we made last year on our way across country. Just happens it was the same exchange off the interstate and we ate at the same burger place and got coffee at the same Starbucks. Nothing special about it, other than it was a convenient stop along the road.

2016-09-22-14-49-34After about an additional hour of time driving about 5 mph on the interstate through Salt Lake City because of an accident involving two semi trucks, we stopped at Hill Air Force Base in north Ogden to visit their excellent museum. We had been there two years ago and enjoyed it so much we decided to stop again since it was only blocks off the interstate and we would be going right by it. Besides, it was a nice place to stretch and take a walk around the museum for an hour before getting back on the road.

2016-09-22-15-26-05Hill AFB is home to one of the static B-17 bombers that have been refurbished and are on display in our country. There are only about 25 of these planes left in existence. After walking the museum and thoroughly scouring the gift shop for new patches or pins for my collections, we decided to go on.

As I watched a film on B-17s in the museum theater while Randy made one last comfort stop, I was shocked when all the lights in the place went out. The film stopped and I could hear all the Japanese tourists gasp. I gasped, too! What could have possibly happened?

I stepped out of the theater and looked out the doors. It was almost black outside. Having heard the weather report last night, I knew this must be the storm with heavy rains and winds that was predicted for this part of the state.

Knowing that I needed one last comfort stop myself before we got in the car to go, I quickly fished out my handy, dandy flash light (which I have carried ever since getting caught in a storm with interrupted electricity while taking night classes at the old St. Edward’s Seminary in 1996) and made my way to the restrooms. Once inside I found three Japanese women who were so thankful I brought a light so they could find the door. They kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you,” and bowed to me several times as they made their way out.

2016-09-22-15-54-01When I got out, I found Randy and we decided to make a dash for the car. There was no rain as yet, and we thought we might be able to get on the road ahead of it. But, as we pulled the doors shut the skies opened and it simply poured. Gusts of wind rocked the car and hail starting hammering on the roof and windows. We decided to stay put and sit there until the cloud burst passed. We could see the freeway from where we were parked and were very glad we had not made it that far. The cars were almost standing still.

About twenty minutes later, the skies brightened, the rain lessened and the hail stopped. So, we carefully made our way, through standing water on the road, to the nearest gas station. After the time it took to fill the gas tank, we felt it was safe to try the interstate. Thankfully, we made it out of town without incident and even though it was still raining, we were headed in the opposite direction of the storm.

2016-09-22-17-17-45We faced almost four more hours of driving before we were going to stop for the night. It continued to rain on and off, but nothing severe and we listened to our audio book “The Irregulars” about the spying exploits of Roald Dahl during the Second World War. It’s quite intriguing and kept us rapt until we hit Twin Falls.

A quick bite at a local fast food joint called “Lemon-fire Grill” and we were ready for rest. Nothing like nature for all the excitement anyone needs while traveling.

It felt like we left home in the middle of summer and are returning home in the middle of fall. Well, today is the first day of Fall, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. But we’ve had our share of temperature variations this trip. Sure glad I brought a sweat shirt along!

An Option-Suit Day

We woke up to thick cloudy skies and weather predictions of rain. Time to consider options. This made us think of our son, Ben, who made up his own superhero when he was a kid. “Option-Suit Man” was someone who could come up with all the options whenever there was something that required a change of plans, a change of directions, or a change of weapons to compete with a threatening villain. We needed Option-Suit Man today.

2016-09-21-10-50-48What was going to be a full day at Zion National Park, turned into something different. We did start out for Zion, and made our first stop at Kolob Canyon, a beautiful and mostly ignored part of the park. Even though the clouds hung low over the mountain peaks, we elected to drive up to the view area. What we saw at the top looked strangely like home. I often walk past our scenic overlook at home and see visitors trying to determine what is actually hidden behind that thick layer of Seattle mist and fog. Well, today in Kolob Canyon, that’s what we saw. And, it looked just like home.

We decided to go on up to the main entrance of Zion anyway, since it wasn’t quite raining YET, and maybe it wouldn’t. (Or, so we told ourselves.) The ranger at Kolob advised us to take the shuttle bus from Springdale as the park would certainly be full of visitors and there would be limited parking available. Yes, we thought, let’s just take the shuttle through the whole park and just leave the car in town. That way we can see everything! And no one has to drive but the bus driver. That was option number 2 for the day.

As we approached Springdale it was pouring and cars were streaming toward us coming out of the park. Option number 3: Why not just drive into the Visitor Center? We didn’t have an umbrella or a raincoat, and waiting for the shuttle would have been similar to standing under the shower head. So, we drove on.

2016-09-21-12-24-18As predicted, the Visitor Center parking was full, but people were moving all the time. So, (option number 3:) Randy suggested I jump out and get a map and stamp and he would wait for a spot to open up and meet me inside. Sounds like a good option! I jumped out and first found the comfort station, then the visitor center. The place was packed with wet bodies and people milling around trying to figure out their options in this unfortunate weather.

About the time I figured I needed to return to the drop-off point because I wasn’t seeing anyone coming to join me, most likely because he was just driving in circles around the parking lot, I saw him approach through the rain.

2016-09-21-12-06-01We thought since we did find a parking spot, (option number 4:) we might as well take the shuttle and see the park, even in the rain! So, we hopped on as the bus pulled up right in front of us. Once on the bus we realized this was no real option! We couldn’t see a thing! The large vista windows were fogged over with the heated breath of a packed bus and we knew we needed to change plans again. (Option number 5:) So, we got off at the museum stop and went inside to view the museum and view the film about the history of the park.

2016-09-21-12-46-42Standing outside in the rain and looking up we could just make out the tops of the mountains, or the canyon’s edge. But it looked like it was covered with cotton candy. Beautiful in it’s own way; it just wasn’t what we were expecting. I did take several pictures and even managed to see a couple of deer in the grassy area behind the museum. But I was worried about my camera in the rain, and so felt reserved next to how much I would have taken had it been a bright and sunny day.

2016-09-21-13-48-14The interesting difference about Zion, as opposed to the last three parks we have visited, is Zion is mostly on the canyon floor and the sides rise up about 3,000 feet higher! The perspective is entirely different and I could actually see myself spending many hours exploring through the canyon floor along the river – as opposed to walking, panic stricken, along the rim, like yesterday.

2016-09-21-14-11-28-5Option 6: We decided to plan to return someday and got back on the shuttle bus and made our way back to the car. Along the way I had to stop several times to capture the beautiful mini mountain sun flowers that captured my delight.

A late lunch was calling to us and the options were limited along the road away from the park. We noticed a sign for a Thai restaurant and promptly pulled in. Nothing like Thai food in the middle of the mountains. We shared a bowel of won ton soup and a dish of red curry chicken. They were hot and savory and filled us up. That’s just about what we wanted.

An hour and a half drive back to the hotel and we spent the early evening planning for the remainder of the days on our way home. Today felt like a Seattle day and it made us a little homesick. I guess that means it’s about time we should be heading home.

2016-09-21-19-55-33Having fully considered all the options for our return trip, we had one more option to consider: What shall we do for a little dinner?

A small pizza from The Pizza Cart hit the spot. And, we splurged and had to try their desert cinnamon roll pizza. Of course, we could hardly eat it, but it will make a wonderful breakfast in the morning.

2016-09-21-13-26-14It was an unexpected day. But one that challenged our ability to make audibles and find other options. Sometimes that’s all we can do. Zion will be a part of another trip at another time. But, we are not sorry we did see a tiny portion of it today wrapped in delicate, rainy, gauze!

Be Still My Heart

We gathered our things, checked out of the hotel in Kanab and packed the car for our continuing adventures to Bryce Canyon. Never having been there before, I had no idea what to expect at Bryce. But what we found was nothing that could have been anticipated.

2016-09-20-10-12-26We left the relative lowlands of Kanab and started to gain elevation. But, first, we had to make a stop at a German bakery in Oderville, right along Highway 89. No proper trip or exploration is complete without an excursion to a German eating establishment. This was a bakery and deli, so it fit the bill. Located about about 30 minutes out of Kanab, we seemed to arrive at the same time that 30 or 40 motorcyclists also arrived. What could be the attraction, I wondered.

2016-09-20-10-42-21As we stood in line to order our sandwiches and baked goods for a picnic later in the day, I knew what drew these bikers. They were all speaking German! Nothing like a taste of home while in the U.S. on a vacation ride through Bryce Canyon.

We took our goods to go and continued on to Bryce. As we traveled, we feared that the day was less than optimum for the task as hand. It was cloudy and the weather reports advised to prepare for rain. This made the thought of taking pictures difficult, but undaunted, we went on.

We arrived at Bryce Canyon visitor center at about 1:00 (Mountain time) and fought among a crowd of visitors to find the passport stamps (which I collect) and wait in line to ask questions about the park. What we eventually learned is that Bryce has a shuttle bus system that encourages visitors to leave their car outside the park and take the shuttle bus between stops while sightseeing.

2016-09-20-13-09-33-1Thinking we would just move the car to the overflow lot so we could catch the shuttle, we drove across the road and circled several times before we gave up and left the park. We found parking in town at the shuttle station and waited for the next bus. We climbed on and road through several stops as folks got on and off. Finally, we were in the park again and on our way to Inspiration Point, where I wanted to take pictures. (Interestingly, one cannot see anything of the canyon from the shuttle. You HAVE to get off and walk a little way to the canyon’s edge.) We were assured we would want to walk the trail, which was flat and well maintained; and was an easy half mile walk to the next viewing point and shuttle access.

So, we got off the bus amid sprinkles of spitting rain. It was 50 degrees cooler than it was three days ago in Phoenix, and we were glad we had come prepared with jackets and hats. Well, we did meet another couple from Bellingham and we both agreed, this weather felt just like home.

2016-09-20-13-43-23And, then we were at the canyon’s edge and SAW the canyon! It was breathtaking! I mean it seriously felt like “I CANNOT BREATHE!” Part of it was a response to the beauty, and part of it was terror. We were standing at the edge (remember we don’t live on the edge . . . nor do we even like to walk along it!!!!) and looking down into a canyon that’s about a half a mile deep – with NO railings or rocks or barriers of any kind. Be still my heart! I took several deep breaths and observed the reds and sand colors of the rock, the spires and alcoves, the ledges and caverns which were all beyond description. I took plenty of pictures, even though it was cloudy, and even though it had started to rain. There’s no way someone can even imagine this spot without a picture to accompany it. And, the picture cannot do it justice. I simply wanted evidence I had stood there! If for only to recall the episodic memory.

2016-09-20-14-16-06Somehow the closeness of this canyon and the brilliant variety of colors made it even more stunning than the Grand Canyon. Or maybe it was just because I was here today and the Grand Canyon was yesterday! I am simply trying to soak in the marvel of creation that I’m standing before moment by moment. Not comparing them, but drinking them in and savoring each one in its uniqueness and unbelievable beauty.

2016-09-20-14-07-24Now, you must be wondering if we walked that trail. Well, . . . . . . . . .  We did! We went very, very slowly and stopped often! We had to laugh at one point that we were moving like Tim Conway as the old man on Carol Burnett – tiny, tiny baby steps and struggling for balance with each foot fall. I told a fellow walker that it’s awfully hard to look and walk at the same time and he agreed. If I wanted to look or take a picture, I had to step off the trail – to the landward side – and take a few deep breaths and then take the picture.

Randy stayed even more landward than I did! And, he joked that all he saw of Bryce Canyon was rocks on the path and the toes of his shoes. Yes, folks, for those of us who are afraid of heights – it was very, very scary. But beautiful enough that we couldn’t turn back. We did made it to Sunset overlook before we almost collapsed at the shuttle bus stop.

By the time the bus came there were enough people waiting to fill two buses. But we were all cold and wet and willing to smash into one bus. Thus, we made our exit from Bryce Canyon. And we elected to save our lovely German picnic for dinner in our hotel and stop somewhere for a hot lunch. We found a little diner along the road and did manage to warm up with some soup and hot drinks.

The next planned stop was an hour and a half away and we would just be able to make it before the visitor center closed. So, off we went toward Cedar Breaks National Monument.

2016-09-20-16-58-19We rose in elevation again and drove through high mountain meadows with larch trees turning yellow and copper. It was a beautiful drive. And the temperature dropped. But, we were driving West and away from the rain, so the sun started to peak out.  We saw lots of deer and the lovely landscape of the high mountains.

Our little Prius, Dixie, really groaned as we went higher and higher. At one point we stopped so I could take a picture and as I came back to the car I could smell how hot the engine was. But, we were almost there.

2016-09-20-17-52-19Finally, at ten to 6:00 we arrived at Cedar Breaks National Monument. I thought it would be some monument to high mountain meadows, but as we walked to the visitor center we could see beyond it to ANOTHER stunning rock face that was striped and variegated with colors of rock and jutting formations. It was a kind of mini Bryce Canyon. But, here the sun was shinning thinly through the cloud cover and the colors were brilliant.

2016-09-20-17-53-01At this point we were at 10,350 feet above sea level. Talk about taking your breath away! There are only two other places in the States that have paved roads that go to a higher elevation. One is in Hawaii, and the other is in Wyoming.

A 5,000 foot drop in elevation drive down into the town of Cedar City, Utah and checking into our hotel allowed us to rest for the day and still our quaking hearts.

It was a memorable day. Very memorable. When I look as the pictures, I still gasp.

Contrasts in Beauty

After a good nine hours of sleep last night we were up early and ready for the next adventure. We flew out of Page, Arizona and our first stop was an unexpected one about 20 minutes down the road. Along the highway we saw one of our brown National information signs that said “Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.” My driver asked, “Wanna stop?” Well, why not? It’s right here!

2016-09-19-11-05-092016-09-19-11-03-53Well, it did involve turning around because we actually missed the first turn, but we did arrive at the Information center for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It’s not actually a national park, but managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and provides thousands of acres of land to explore and discover. In fact, dinosaur bones have been discovered on these lands and scientists have shown through their research how once these dry desert lands were covered with water when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. A geologist or a paleontologist could have a picnic here, there must be so much to see. But, not being equipped for desert exploration, we walked through the little museum and read the informational signs and hopped back in the car for our next destination.

2016-09-19-12-03-24-1About two hours later we stopped in Fredonia, AZ at the site of Pipe Springs National Monument. It is a place in the high desert where water naturally flowed from the red rock, making it a sought after location for travelers and settlers alike. Both the native Kaibab Indians and the Mormon settlers claim history in this unusual spot. There is still a homestead that stands from the first white family who settled there. It is almost like a living history farm, with crops growing and livestock on the site. It made for a lovely little respite in the midst of the high desert. No wonder those who lived here thought it a special place.

The highlight for today’s itinerary was to make it to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s a little bit of a jaunt, about two hours from Fredonia, and the only thing at the end of the road is the Grand Canyon.

2016-09-19-13-07-04One week ago today we spent the day on the South rim of the canyon, so we were interested in seeing the north rim. Little did we know we would feel like we were in an entirely different country on the north rim. Driving up to its 8827 feet of elevation we went from dry desert red rock to short brush; to conifers; to meadows and larch trees turning yellow among the pines; to several 2016-09-19-13-22-05-1miles of burnt landscape coming back to life; and eventually to the North Village along the rim which was built in the early 20th century and is still serving guests today who wish to rent cabins or stay at the massive lodge. The drive was stunning and we kept marveling at how very different the north side of the canyon was from the south side. You can compare the pictures for yourself. Look back to last Monday, then contrast them with today.2016-09-19-13-56-29-1

2016-09-19-15-22-472016-09-19-15-39-52Having enjoyed the views driving up, by this time it was 3:00 and we felt famished. (We did get an early start this morning.) We decided on an afternoon meal at the lodge, only to find out that they quit serving lunch at 3:00 and opened for dinner at 4:30, with no reservations available until 9:15! Well, that settled it. We walked over to the deli shop and had a young man from Turkey who was working the counter make us a turkey sandwich. He explained how turkey sandwiches were his favorite, because he was from Turkey! Well, why not?

2016-09-19-15-29-47The sandwiches nicely filled the hole and we went out to visit the views. To our surprise, the north rim is not as developed as the south rim, and “taking a walk along the rim” was an entirely different experience. As I have mentioned before, neither of us are ones for “living on the edge,” so we viewed the beauty from as close as we dared. And, it was stunning, even at that distance.

2016-09-19-15-16-25The day was slightly overcast and there was lingering smoke from a controlled forest fire, so my pictures may not be as clear as from the south rim, but you can compare their beauty. The north rim displays more colors, (at least to my eye) and more variations of jutting rock of different composition. I find it so beautiful! Not more or less than the other side, but a kind of contrasting beauty. It makes me so awed with creation and the Creator! What other words are there?

2016-09-19-15-16-04If you have never been, you must come someday and see the wonders of this unusual and amazing place. Beauty unparalleled. A desert rim and stretching 5 to 7 miles across, a high alpine meadow and forest rim. I can only wonder what the first people to find this place must have thought!

2016-09-19-15-53-26Being at 8827 feet above sea level, I found it a little difficult to breathe. We live about 100 feet above sea level in Seattle and that’s quite a contrast. I kept thinking about the pilots in WWII who would have to go on oxygen at 10,000 feet!! We were pretty close to that. No wonder it was difficult to breathe.

As the afternoon lengthened, the clouds gathered and we decided to go back down to the desert waiting for us with a clean room and a bed in Kanab, UT.

2016-09-19-16-27-56The drive back down to Kanab was as equally thrilling as the drive up, only this time the sun was spotty, making the yellow leaves on the larch trees look like they were aflame. AND we saw a herd of buffalo, as well as several herds of deer in the far off distance. It was a beautiful, beautiful day. A day of contrasts, a day of surprising sights. A day of grace.

2016-09-19-19-43-27We made it back to Kanab as darkness fell and the sun at the horizon shone through the cloud layer to create a creamy orange and purple sky. We stopped for a salad bar and small pizza at a local establishment and made our way to our lodgings for the night.

It could not have been a more surprising or unexpected day!


Navajo Lands

2016-09-18-11-28-19We packed out of Flagstaff early, gassed up and headed straight north to find the Navajo National Monument. Once again we were driving through a variety of landscapes: coniferous trees and small volcanic peaks; small scrub brush and cacti; dirt, dirt, and more dirt; dust and rocks; jutting rocks that sat singly in the center of flat lands; and canyons gaping at the edge of flat lands. This is Arizona!2016-09-18-13-00-34



2016-09-18-10-29-43We made a comfort stop at the Cameron Trading Post and I walked through the store while Randy got his mid-day coffee. Then we were on the road again through uninhabited (and hot and dry) lands to the Navajo National Monument, home to the ancestral Puebloans. Although we lost GPS a couple of times, we did find the site 2016-09-18-14-39-58at last. We checked in with the ranger and set out on a mile hike to the overlook where we could see the place where the Puebloans built their dwellings in the face of the cliffs around 1100. It was pretty impressive. I took a lot of pictures, but the sides of the cave were half shading the structures because the sun was starting to move to the West. Still, I’m so happy to have stood at the rim and seen this amazing place, even if half of it was in the shadows.

I stopped into a Navajo shop on the site and bought two small souvenirs: a tiny dream catcher laden with beads and fringe, and a small zippered clutch (about the size of my cell phone) made out of a piece of Navajo blanket – in the colors of black and teal.  We also purchased a couple of books on the Pueblo People and a map to make sure we found our way back to civilization! It really was a beautiful and holy spot and I’m so glad we made the effort to drive all the way out to it.

Another long drive through the Navajo lands to find Antelope Canyon. I’d seen many, many beautiful pictures of Antelope Canyon and I wanted to see it for myself. But, we couldn’t find it! We found the Antelope Marina on the Colorado river and Lake Powell made by the Glen Canyon Dam, but no Antelope Canyon like the pictures I had seen. So, we drove on.

When we arrived at Glen Canyon National Recreation Site, we asked the ranger how to find the Antelope Canyon that is so popular. She said, “Oh, you drove right past it. It’s just a parking lot ((Well, we did see a bunch of cars parked next to some porta-potties along the side of the road in the dirt!)) and you have to pay a guide to take you into the canyon.” Oh, I responded. How must would that be? Well, it costs $28 per person if you are willing to climb down a ladder leaning on the face of the canyon walls; and $48 per person if you want a guide to take you on the route where no climbing is involved. And, perhaps even more than that if you want to see more than one spot! Antelope Canyon – for those who are interested.

So, we opted to enjoy other’s pictures of that beautiful spot and kept moving forward. No backtracking allowed on this trip. Maybe that will be another adventure on another day.

2016-09-18-16-22-06At the town of Page, AZ, we stopped first at the Visitor Center for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It’s built on the site of the Glen Canyon Dam that stops the Colorado River and creates Lake Powell. This is actually a spot where one can cross the Grand Canyon. Needless to say, it’s not quite so grand right at this point.

2016-09-18-17-54-24And, that’s where we are headed tomorrow. But, first, dinner tonight. As we drove down main street in town we saw two large BBQ barrels spewing smoke that smelled heavenly! So, we stopped and enjoyed some of the best BBQ pulled pork I’ve ever had! Delightful! Melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork, smoked to perfection. Add a little ice cream for desert and we were set to roll up for the night.


The Turning Point

Today is the turning point. We turned north from our farthest southern point and now we are traveling in the direction of home.

2016-09-17-10-55-47But, this morning we spent several hours with Harry, a distant cousin, and three of his daughters and their husbands. They were all curious to hear Randy’s story of finding his father through good detective ancestry research. (Randy and Harry met over the internet doing ancestry research – and found they were distantly related!)  It was a fun morning.

2016-09-17-10-55-58One of Harry’s daughters brought homemade cinnamon rolls and we enjoyed their delicious freshness as we all laughed and shared and got to know each other. Harry, who will turn 85 in October, was delighted beyond words over our visit. We had met him about 12 years ago on a trip through Iowa. But in the intervening time, he and his lovely wife, Maddy, moved to Arizona to be closer to their children, and then last November Maddy died. So, Harry is close to his children, but he loved having visitors from the “North Country,” as he said.

2016-09-17-11-16-27We left Harry’s home about 12:30 and had to stop to fill up our little Prius before heading out on the road. We put 8.2 gallons in the tank – and that’s a lot, in case you’re wondering. We had driven 444 miles on that tank of gas. I tried to look up what the capacity of a Prius gas tank actually is, but it seems to all be conjecture. No one, however, seems to have filled up with more than 9 gallons. (Just a little trivia for you about traveling in a Prius!)

Now that Dixie was full, we decided we had better nourish ourselves before heading out through the desert again. (And, it was 100 degrees today!) So, we stopped at a Texas Roadhouse before leaving Gilbert, the suburb where Harry lives.

We first found a Texas Roadhouse a couple of years ago while traveling the south and now, whenever we can, we always make at least one stop at a Texas Roadhouse. They outshine Outback Steakhouse – well, I would venture that they actually put Outback to shame. Needless to say, we enjoyed our late lunch.

We are in Flagstaff again for the night and will go north to Page, AZ tomorrow. This has all been such an amazing, grace-filled trip. But, we are happy to be heading in the direction of home.2016-09-17-15-19-13


Leaving Flagstaff

This morning we left our little cabin for points south. We had a lovely week and managed to see all that we had planned. So, we left with good memories and our sights focused on the next stop, Phoenix.

img_20160916_124928516Along the way we stopped at the Arizona Commerative Air Force Museum. They are home to one of the 10 remaining air worthy B-17’s, Sentimental Journey. She was away on tour, but we certainly enjoyed the rest of the displays and information at the museum.

img_20160916_160507866_hdrToward late afternoon, we drove south of Phoenix to the site of Casa Grande, another National Park site dedicated to preserving the architecture and culture of ancient peoples who settled in the Sonoran desert and built an active agricultural society.

Then it was time to keep an appointment with a distant cousin who Randy met through ancestry research. Harry was so happy we had come to visit, and we were glad we had, too. We had an enjoyable dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, a very fresh style buffet soup and salad bar, and talked and shared as if we had known each other all our lives.

Harry has invited us to his home for breakfast in the morning. I’m sure it will be lovely. We are looking forward to meeting his children, who are our age, and talking more about our Midwest roots and the bonds that we share as family.

Resting . . . under the Stars

Well, due to the extreme nature of yesterday, today was deemed a “resting day.” And, rest is exactly what we did. Right up to about 5:30.

We read our books and caught up on email and I did several loads of wash and . . . rested. Very unexciting, but oh so necessary.

At 5:30 we emerged from our little cabin and went in the direction of pizza. We found a wood fired pizza place that was excellent.  Just what we needed to cap off a resting day.

2016-09-15-18-13-56But, wait! There’s more. After dinner we drove up to Arizona’s Snowbowl, just to see it and see the magnificent views. At over 9,000 feet above sea level we thought we should be able to see something. We did see some deer along the road, and several sun worshipers at the summit sitting on rocks and watching the sunset. 2016-09-15-18-15-50I was able to capture a picture, but the sun was so brilliantly beautiful it made photography almost impossible.

As we came down the mountain we made a right turn and went back up Mars Hill Road to the Lowell Observatory. It was a perfectly cloudless night and we knew they would have their telescopes open for public viewing.

We were not disappointed. There were four different opportunities to view the heavens through a telescope. I viewed the moon again. It is still almost incomprehensible to see the moon so distinctly as one can through a powerful telescope! Since this was a different telescope than the other night, I asked again if I might take a picture. And, this is what I got. It’s so amazing. I actually SAW the moon – just like this.2016-09-15-19-27-06

We also got to view the twin stars named Alberio, that are so close together they look like one star to the naked eye; M-13, a great cluster of about 500,000 stars; as well as Mars; Saturn; and M-11, another cluster of stars in our galaxy. The most shocking view for me tonight was Saturn. I could see the rings of Saturn! Actually SEE the rings of Saturn!

It certainly gives one pause to see the heavens so closely. And to know that the light that we are seeing is thousands and thousands of years old. These same heavenly bodies, with the same twinkling lights are what our ancestors saw when they looked up at the sky. Our forebearers may not have seen them as we saw them tonight, but the stars are one thing that has remained constant in our changing world . . . and they are constantly changing!

These same stars and planets lit the heavens when the peoples of Walnut Canyon, Wupatki, Tuzigoot and Canyon de Chelly built their homes and raised their children. The same stars. It makes me wonder if it may be the heavens that bind us together in experience and humanity – not how we are so unique or different, but in how much over all the centuries, we are actually the same. We are just small human creatures making a life as best we can under the light of the moon and the stars that guide us and grace us with two unerring principles of constancy and change.2016-09-15-19-05-01


That’s a LONG Day

Four hundred and fifty miles; twelve hours; and four national parks or monuments. Girls and boys, that makes for one very LONG day!

2016-09-14-08-43-21-bBut, it was a good long day. We rolled out of bed early, knowing we were going for a marathon. But, our early start got waylaid by our deer breakfast buddies appearance right off our living room deck. I had opened the bedroom shades after getting dressed and saw them basking in the dappled sun shafts coming through the Ponderosa pines. So, transfixed by their beauty, I had to eat my yogurt standing by the sliding door, watching them. Finally, I realized they weren’t going anywhere and I got my camera and got bold enough to walk out onto our deck. They looked at me and carried on! Look closely. They are in this picture. Mother is just right of center and her fawn is in the bottom left corner. It was a beautiful, if slow start to the day.

2016-09-14-09-56-45By 9:30 we were gassing up and hitting the road. First stop: a return to Walnut Canyon for some photos in the morning sun. Never being one with any affinity for living on the edge, I went as close to the edge as I dared, took my photos and retreated. The wind was blowing fiercely and I was afraid I might loose my hat, or my camera, or my life! Those cliffs are impressive, and how people managed to live on them is beyond me! But, it is a beautiful place. Archaeologist have learned so much from what these ancient peoples have left behind in these dwellings. What will archaeologists in the future learn about us from what we leave behind?

After about two hours of driving into the heart of Navajo lands, we were able to make a surprise stop at one of the very few commercial enterprises along the route. The Bashas’ Grocery in Dilkon was a delight to find. Not only did they provide a “comfort stop” but had some of the best fresh donuts I’ve ever tasted! Yes, I had two!! And, they were heavenly.

2016-09-14-14-00-28Another hour of driving and we arrived at Canyon de Chelly, a park that is jointly managed by the Navajo Nation and the National Parks. We thought we might just make a short stop, but the views and the landscape were so stunning, we drove the whole length of the south rim and stopped at every pull off. The beauty is unparalleled. And, not to be compared with the Grand Canyon. 2016-09-14-14-43-30Each is completely unique and I’m so glad we made the extra effort to go all the way to Canyon de Chelly. Who has even heard of such a place? Well, now that you have, it is a must stop for any trip to Arizona.

2016-09-14-14-02-57-bWe ate our picnic lunch at an overlook and I stopped and purchased a painting from an artist who was painting rock tiles on the tailgate of his truck. He was happy to know a piece of his art work would find a home in Seattle.

Fearing the time was evaporating, we hastily tried to make it to the next stop on the itinerary, the Hubbell Trading Post. We arrived just 10 minutes before we thought it was closing at 5 p.m., only to find out they were open until 6! What a grace. 2016-09-14-16-58-18Now we had time to look around and explore. Just as its name implies, it was a trading center, a spot where cultures met and goods were traded beginning as early as the 1300’s. Around the 1890’s a man named Hubbell built a ranch and a trading post there that functioned until his daughter-in-law sold it to the National Parks Service in the 1960’s. Today it is still a place to purchase fine Navajo art and products. Not having the budget to buy most of the inventory, I settled on a handmade Christmas tree ornament of Our Lady of Guadalupe (a great number of Navajo are Catholic); a book of native culture and legends; and a tiny jar of “Natural Pinon Cream.”

2016-09-14-17-21-30Now it was 6 o’clock and we were afraid that our final stop, the Petrified Forest was also closed. However, upon research we found that we had two hours yet! The park was open until 7 and since the Navajo Nation observe daylight savings time, but the rest of Arizona doesn’t, we had an hour to make our way there and an hour to see the park before it closed.

2016-09-14-18-17-19So, another grace and another race down the highway through the amazingly varied landscape of Arizona to the Petrified Forest National Park. We checked in just in time to have one hour to see what we could see. So, we drove the length of the park making decisions as we went as to what to stop and see. 2016-09-14-18-38-34More canyon-type landscape; more rock formations and “painted desert” lands. But the most intriguing site was the petrified forest itself. Unfortunately, we arrived there exactly as the sun was setting. My pictures don’t do it justice and you’ll have to click the link to see some pictures in the sunlight. All of it a truly stunning example of diversity in creation and the effects of time on the landscape.

2016-09-14-18-39-09The moon rose; the sun set; it reached seven o’clock and we had to be making our way to the nearest exit of the park. We were so very happy we were able to make every destination of our day’s plan, even if it seemed at times like we had to take the abbreviated tour.

Now it was pitch dark and we drove to connect with the major highway to make our way “home” to Flagstaff, another two hours and fifteen minutes away. But that hastily packed picnic lunch wasn’t lasting very long and we were scouting for nourishment. In the town of Holbrook, driving down the main street we saw “The Butterfield Stagecoach Co. Steak House.” Now, that sounded pretty good!

2016-09-14-19-27-17The place looked like it had been there since the Butterfield boys established their stage line, but the waitress showed us to a table and we shared a sirloin steak platter. It was enough to keep us going for the next hour and a half.

At 9:50 p.m. we pulled into our drive. Four hundred and fifty miles; twelve hours; and four national parks or monuments. Quite a day. Quite a memory. Quite a grace.2016-09-14-19-38-23