Saturday, May 23, 2009

There and Back again - Day Four


We were up early the next morning. We were ready to tackle the Rockies. All of them. So 450-ish miles back home and nothing to do but drive. We have comfy leather seats in our van. They start to not feel so comfy after 3-4 days of sitting in them. So we drove thru Utah. It's a really pretty place.

We saw some really neat places. We saw some of the famous Utah Arches from a distance. We drove through Moab, Utah. It was the oddest place. Lots of desert and then you drive around what seems likes a corner and you are in a valley surrounded by giant red cliffs. Further down the interstate we came across a strange site. It's called Hole"N the Rock. It's one of those Route 66 type places. It's a 5000 square foot home carved into a large rock. There's also a petting zoo and gift shop. It was a fun stop the kids really enjoyed it.

We got a drink and got back on the road. We still had quite a drive ahead of us. The landscape was amazing. Soon we got up into the Rockies. It was really pretty up there. Top of the world. And finally we were back in Colorado. We passed through some of the most beautiful ski towns. We saw Vail and Breckenridge. The whole area is a great site. It was a great weekend for skiing. We made one last pitstop in Idaho Springs.

If you are coming through Colorado, you have got to check out Idaho Springs. It's very popular with the skiing crowd when the weekend it coming to a close. Idaho Springs is a very cute little mining town. Our two family favorite places to visit are Beau Jo's Pizza and TommyKnockers Brewery. Beau Jo's has the best pizzas ever. They have pizzas named by how much they weigh. And TommyKnockers is just awesome. They have their own stills in the restaurant. The artwork on the walls is really something. This day we only stopped by for my DH to pick up TommyKnocker rootbeer.

Another 45 minutes and we were home. Looking back I think if we had thought about it we would have planned for one more day. We'd have been a lot less rushed. But we saw so much of the west. My husband got to see the desert he's always dreamed of seeing. We took our kids to the Grand Canyon. I saw my 2 favorite authors. So no regrets other than we didn't have more time. Oh and the driving thru Monument Valley in the middle of the night. That was not great also. But we know where it is now so we can always go back in the day time.

So I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as we enjoyed the experience. And maybe you'll be inspired to go check out the Four Corners area.

The End.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

There and Back again - Day Three

Caption: Our little fam in front of the sign.


That's right, you guessed it. We were going to see the canyon. We spent a lovely night in Flagstaff. My adventurous husband spent the evening plotting our course while I spent the entire night worrying about my 3 kiddos throwing themselves into the Grand Canyon. It's one of those irrational things. I know that my kids aren't gonna take a flying leap but somehow my heart and my head where not on the same page. So we got up and at 'em. After a brief trip to the Target, to acquire a jacket for me, we headed out making our way north to the Grand Canyon. I have to say I was having mixed feelings. I mean it's the Grand Canyon for crying out loud. Who doesn't want to see it? That would be me. I really wanted to see it but within reason. If that makes any sense?

We had to drive thru this National Forest area. I'm sure I can find the name of it online somewhere. But right now it escapes me. The drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon park was interesting. As I said Flagstaff and the surrounding area is evergreen forest. The national forest area was very similar and then you come to the end of the forest and you are in the grassland with a great view of a snowcapped mountain in the background. Very panoramic. Worthy of a ton of photos which are still on the other camera.

Caption: The view of the mountain and grassland on the way from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon park.

So we arrive at the gates of the Grand Canyon park. I cannot imagine what the wait must be like during the summer. That is not something I ever want to experience. As it was we only had to wait for about 20 minutes to pay and drive thru the gate. The ticket we got was good for up to 7 days. Not that we needed it, just a little fyi. So now we come to it. The Canyon.

You can't describe it. And no matter how many photos/videos you see, you can not be prepared for the view. You just get out of the car, walk up a small sidewalk and BOOM! You are hit with the most awe-inspiringly beautiful scene. You can't imagine the size of it until you stand at the edge of it. Well not exactly the edge unless you are one of those crazy people who want to walk up to the edge. It is huge. And wide. And deep. And beautiful. And majestic. And all the other things people say about it. You just stand and stare because your jaw drops. You can't take it all in.

Caption: Those are people over on that rock. That's the first viewing area you come to.

The only thing it is not is railed. As in, the majority of the walkway around it is not lined with rails. It is wide open and the walkway is less than 5 feet wide and the near side of the walkway was, oh let's say, less than 5 feet from the edge of the canyon. We are talking shock and awe. Those were the emotions I was fighting with. We walked up part of the walkway. It was beautiful. There were some really strange plants there and more cactus. We drove further to the east. We drove the South Rim stopping at every viewing area.

Then we came to a really pretty area called Navajo Point. It's the highest point of the canyon right around 7000 feet. There was an old watchtower with a gift shop. It was a great view. And it was the last stop on our way through Grand Canyon park.

Caption: This is Navajo Point.

Some facts about the Grand Canyon:
- It is 277 miles (446 km) long, ranges in width from 4 to 18 miles (6.4 to 29 km) and attains a depth of over a mile (1.83 km) (6000 feet). - from wikipedia
- It can take 5 hours to drive around the whole canyon - from park literature
- The Pueblo people consider the Grand Canyon to be a holy site - from wikipedia

So with much ado, one small camera filled and dead, and the other camera not even close to filled we headed out of the park and into the desert. North toward Utah.

But the day wasn't even close to over. We drove through the Painted Desert. We went through a small but growing town called Tuba City. The town's first McDonald's had just opened that weekend and when we were there a busload of European tourists decided to check it out. They were trying to order and didn't speak English. It was right out of a movie. We grabbed our early dinner and headed on. The plan was to get as far as we could into Utah that night.

Yeah, about that. Google is a lovely thing. Google maps has issues I think. It's dark now. We are driving into Utah. We've never been there before and there is nothing but open range as far as you can see in the pitch black of night. We look forward to any small town that we catch glimpse of. We pass through a small town and Google maps tells us to take a left at the light. Okay, sounds good. We leave the town and all signs of civilization. There are few houses and they are way off the road. I say road because this no longer resembles an interstate. Still open range. A truck from time to time and then some rock formations in the moonlight.

Google maps decided that we needed to see or rather not see Monument Valley at night. You know Monument Valley. It's in every old western movie. The giant desert with the huge rock formations that take your breath away. Yeah, you remember the whole Agoraphobia thing? (see Day Two) So we drove through some of this country's most beautiful landscape at night. And there's nothing but desert out there. For miles. You should Google "Monument Valley". Go ahead, I'll wait. I'd post pics but I'm still a little freaked out by it.

And then we come to another small town. It's called Blanding, Utah. We stayed there that night. It was cheap, it had two beds, we didn't care that it was a big fake wood paneled box. We slept.

More tomorrow. Isn't this fun?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

There and Back again - Day Two


So where were we? Oh right. Grants, New Mexico. Okay, so Grants is probably a great place and all. But we had expected to get well into Arizona on day one and we had a time crunch. The Project Book Babe event was at 2pm.

Just a side note:
I had planned for us to eat fast food no more than once per day. We brought a 13 gallon storage container packed with bread, peanut butter, chips, pretzels, dry cereal, foam bowls, plastic silverware and plastic cups. Also a small cooler for sodas and water bottles. Many hotels have complementary breakfast so we weren't overly concerned about breakfast but dry cereal is good for munching anyways. My thought was that if we didn't end up at a place without breakfast would just need to get a small container of milk. I tried to make sure we had either bottled or Colorado water in the cooler. We've been known to not do well with "foreign" water. Better safe than sorry.

So back to the trip. We headed on thru New Mexico. It's a very beautiful place. The desert is amazing. We had never seen anything like it. I found that I have quite a big case of Agoraphobia (a.k.a.- I panic in wide open spaces. lovely.) That became more and more evident throughout the rest of the trip.

So we drove stopping from time to time to see the sites (potty breaks). We saw Route 66 on several occasions and we also saw THE rock formations from the movie Cars. It felt like we were driving thru Radiator Springs.

Caption: The white stuff is snow.

So the next really note-worthy place we went to was Flagstaff, Arizona. You drive for hours and hours thru nothing but desert and suddenly you are in a evergreen forest. We saw log cabins. Flagstaff was beautiful. The weather was nice. It was a breath of fresh air after almost a year of being without trees. (We moved to Colorado from the southeast about a year ago. The lack of trees is something that we have yet to get over.) There are lots of hotels, restaurants, Starbucks, department stores just in case you forgot to bring a jacket. But we continued on to Phoenix.

The drive from Flagstaff to Phoenix was really picturesque. Our second born, Monkey, has been studying animal habitats at our homeschool science program and he got lots of photos of the desert. I've never really seen a cactus. But we saw thousands. He was pointing out that certain species of cactus grow an "arm" every 50 years. Some of them had several "arms". We were quite amazed by the height of them. At one roadside store the cactus that was standing next to the building had to be almost 20 feet tall. Amazing.

We finally got to Phoenix! Yippee! It's like an oasis. There are palm trees everywhere. Not like the ones you see in Florida. These were very lush and bright. The ones I've come across in Florida are usually not bright green. These were really pretty. Swimming pools everywhere. And these really bright red bushes. I have no idea what they were but I'm sure the proud natives would know. Anyways, we took a wrong turn and there was a bit of construction. So I got there a little late. But I got a really good seat at the event. Hubby and the kiddos explored the neighborhood near the school where the event was held and found a really nice park and playground. Which I think the kids probably really appreciated after the long ride.

Here's a photo from the Project Book Babe event:

Caption: That's Stephenie Meyer and Shannon Hale, 2 of my favorite authors.

So after the event was over and we had a nice early dinner we drove back up to Flagstaff. We found another affordable hotel. I wish I could remember the name of it. But the cost ($60) was about the same as day one. I know we filled up the tank before we left Phoenix but I'm not sure if we got gas earlier that day. I think we grabbed breakfast sandwiches when we got into Arizona and we had Arby's after the event. Also on a side note we were really worried about the time crunch until we stopped just inside Arizona and found that there is a time change? We had no idea that we would go through a time zone. So that helped with our trip.

We spent the night in Flagstaff, which DH discovered is less than 2 hours from the Grand Canyon. So can you see where this is going?

More tomorrow and the pics are worth the wait.