Monday, July 03, 2006

The Rest of the Trip - with Photos

Let's do this one in fast forward and get on with things now that I'm home, eh? So let's see... we've already covered "Long, boring ride across Nevada" - check. And "Long boring, windy ride across Utah" - check. "Blah, blah, windy Wyoming - yep, check. Sister? Mother? Other sister? Yep, all checked. I didn't blab on and on about my mom's beautiful new home but then again, the out in the middle of frickin' nowhere bit sort of cancels that out so let's skip it altogether and move on.

So off we went, rather later in the day on Saturday then we'd planned. Hey, if YOUR sister just "threw together" a gourmet lunch for you, you'd dawdle too. We had to drive up over a pass that was on fire, led by a leader car but I'm not complaining, at least they let us go through. At dusk we hit the scariest freakin' descent I've ever done down a mountain - like 9% grade for a zillion miles in the semi-dark but not so dark I couldn't see the big mountains and the even bigger drop offs and pulling a trailer and brakin', second gear, brakin', prayin' that nothing like brakes or tires got to hot and BIG GULPS OF AIR OH MY GODS AND GODDESSES WE MADE IT TO THE BOTTOM STILL ON THE ROAD when it was all over.

Then we arrived in Pagosa Springs which was a cute little tourist town with no vacancy signs. But someone took pity on us and we got the very last campsite at a very nice campground and popped up the trailer in the dark and went to sleep except it was so cold we sort of slept, froze, slept, froze, until morning.

We woke up Sunday morning and discovered we were on the edge of a lake near a picture perfect river and the world was a postcard. We had an equally postcard perfect breakfast al fresca in Pagosa Springs and then the day went pretty much downhill from there, only, again, I'm not complaining, really, just stating the facts, because it was a bunch of little problems and not a big one and they were all fixable and so that's enough for me.

It took us eight hours to drive about two hours farther down the highway because of those problems. We'd somehow lost a lugnut and between my husband and my mother calling to check if our wheel was still on, I was a nervous wreck. Unfortunately there's not a whole lot of auto stores open on a Sunday in the backwaters of Colorado. To top it all off, just as we were about to pull off to Mesa Verde, a car flew by us, threw up a rock, and put a big ol' spiderweb crack in middle of the driver's side of the windshield.

Mesa Verde was a bust. They wouldn't let trailers in so we had to backtrack to a parking lot where we fought to get the trailer unhitched for about a half hour. Just as we were about to give up William gave it one more try and it came off as smooth as glass. So we went back to the park entry and we found out that the sights were an hour into the park, there was a fee for each hike, some of the hikes were only by tour and were almost done for the day, and we already knew that they only allowed dogs in the campgrounds and parking lots. This meant we'd spend the rest of the day to go on maybe ONE hike, one person at a time, while the other person sat around in the hot sun with the dog, and we'd be charged for it not only to get into the park but to step onto the trail. And I still had no lugnut and now a broken windshield to deal with. We decided to be mature and just skip Mesa Verde altogether.

The rest of the afternoon we spent in a little town just west of Mesa Verde that had a Walmart Superstore. Three long hikes from the back of the parking lot to the far back of the store and back and we still hadn't picked out the correct size lugnut. And it was hot. Very, very hot. We did however now have ice, sodas, a flashlight, and batteries. A man walking through the parking lot stopped to commiserate and told us there was an Auto Zone open just down the road. So we went there and spent another hour and a half in their parking lot getting the right lugnut and fixing the windshield and fielding phone calls and eating Taco Bell.

We finally got going and our first stop (and so exciting, our first photo of the post!) was The Four Corners. In case there's anyone reading this that completely failed U.S. Geography, the four corners is the only place in America where four states meet together - New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. I found it amusingly ironic that this sight actually sits inside the Navajo Reservation and the Navajo Nation (or Nations, I got the feeling there were several different ones involved but I'm not sure) charge $3 a head for tourists to come stand there, out in the middle of nowhere.

A beautiful nowhere though. Stark and empty but lots of sky and striking striations in the rocks. Along with the marker for photo ops, there's also a parking lot and a half ring of stands where people are selling everything from their own art to the Native American version of tchotkes. And snow cones! Yummy snow cones. On a melt your sandals hot day snow cones are like nirvana in a paper cup.

The funniest thing though was that Rosie was a STAR. Between the Navajos and the Hispanics, oh my stars, we couldn't walk two feet without her being fawned over, petted, and sweet talked. She's usually fairly reticent around lots of people but somehow she knew. She was amongst "her people" and she was charming and friendly to her adoring fans.

Here's William standing in four states at once. While I was snapping this photo the crowds were yelling at us to pick up Rosie as the metal was too hot for her sweet little feet. It wasn't. Believe me, she would have let us know. But apparently us lowly gringos weren't to be trusted with her well being.

They had these wierd posts there as well and when I'm done here, I'm gonna hop on over to Laume's Studio and post a photo of them there.

More driving. More bargaining, negotiating and arguing over what CD's to listen to while zipping across the wide southwest expanses. Here's William, the Bronco, and the Pop Up in front of a beautiful rock formation (they were everywhere! Europe had statues and castles everywhere, we have rock formations - nature's version of statues and castles)

This is a photo of the smoke from a fire on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We watched this for the last several hours of our day's drive. Very dramatic, especially if you click it larger.

We made it to the Grand Canyon after dark. DAng. This is the second time I've been there and the second time I've managed to miss the sunset. Double DaNg. Oh well, it saved us time stopping at all those Scenic Overlook Points coming in. They all looked the same to us - black. Although that stretch of the trip wasn't without merit - we passed an elk who looked like she was considering whether to jump in front of our car or not.

We stayed with some friends, Jon and Carolyn at the Canyon. We camped in our trailer in their driveway in the village inside the park. Jon is a Park Ranger and Interpreter there. They're actually the parents of a good friend (who started out as an online buddy - the power of the internet!) and my friend and I often laugh that we have the same mother. We might as well since they treated us just like one of their kids. They came through and visited with us a couple of summers ago and they were so sweet and welcoming when we returned the favor. In the morning we were treated with showers and a hot breakfast and then Jon was able to take some time off to show us around the canyon personally. We got to go onto a road that's only open by passcode and see dramatic views down to rapids. It was great. I took a lot of photos although it was hard because of that fire, the air was very hazy inside the canyon from the smoke.

Since you can google a lot more dramatic pics of the Canyon then I was able to take, I'll just show you this one I captured of a California Condor in flight. Nine foot wingspan. Hard to imagine, isn't it.

We only spent the morning at the rim and then it was off again to San Diego. Amazingly, we made it in one long drive. More middle of nowhere. More rock formations.

We did stop for a short time in the tiny town of Yarnell, Arizona. You get there by going on what William has dubbed "the curviest section of highway in the world" southwest of Prescott. If you're ever passing through Yarnell, there's a sign that says something like "St. Joseph Shrine 1/2 Mile" with an arrow. I remembered we'd stopped there the last time we'd been through the area. Okay, so the only other time we'd been through the area. But it had been really neat in a "whodathunk to build something like this way out here" sorta way. So we stopped again. The link above gives you a few pics of the place, but it's hard to explain what the appeal is - probably because it's such a unique undiscovered spot. It's nice to know those type of places still exist. They also have a Catholic retreat there. The last time we'd stopped to eat at a cute little cafe. I noticed that was now a gift shop. Just as we were passing out of town I noticed another gift shop with the bizarre name "Brand New Dead Things". You just know, if it had been open, I would have had to stop. I guess next time we pass through, eh?

The rest of the trip was cacti, heat, cacti, heat. I really wanted to take some photos but there wasn't really anyplace convenient to pull over in something as long as a truck and trailer combination that wasn't covered with, well, cacti. And all that calling frantically about the fire that was burning back home. Oh, and Brawley.

We came into Brawley (the top of the El Centro Valley in the southernmost part of California) at night, down off a ridge, and the smell hit us. It was dark so we couldn't see them, but you couldn't miss that they were there - cattle lots. It was as if someone had shoved an entire cow up your nose. In 106 degree heat. In high humidity. With a wind. Even Rosie wanted to hold her nose.

I told William that folks had preferred El Centro over Brawley because it of the lack of smell. Actually, I remembered the smell in Brawley coming from a sugar production plant, which wasn't half as bad as the cows. And when I say bad, I mean BAD. I grew up in the midwest nd a sniff of dairy farm on the wind is even mildly pleasant to me. But this smell was like a dairy farm transformed by Stephen King into something evil. Willilam replied "If your town's biggest selling point is that it doesn't smell like THIS, you have serious problems!" I pointed out to him that he actually used to live there, well, in El Centro, when Papa's job brought us down there briefly. He said if his job ever required him to move here, he'd quit. I told him that living there had been a good thing in the greater scheme of things because now wherever I live, I can compare it favorably to the armpit of California that is El Centro.

We got in at midnight, fought with the trailer hitch again, finally said "fuggitall" and parked the whole thing across three spaces in the apartment complex with a note saying we'd deal with it in the morning. In the morning I discovered the trick of the crotchety old locking device and we unhitched and parked the trailer for a week in Joe and Lisa's car park space.

Speaking of Joe and Lisa, here's a cute photo of the couple I took:

We spent almost a week. On one evening, I was craving Mexican food. So we went down to Old Town San Diego and had the BEST meal ever, on the patio, with a mexican band playing somewhere, fountains splashing, flags fluttering, tourists wandering. It was a great time. Here's the boy's side of the table:

And here's the girl's side:

Here's a few more photos I took while we were walking around after dinner. I just wanted to give you a visual on why I adore my daughter-in-law. Look - she can DANCE -

In public mind you. She also sings in public, but I didn't take a pic of that. But she, she can also BLOW BUBBLES -

And last but not least, she can JUGGLE - er, well, she can BALANCE THINGS -

Isn't she a keeper! She can also grow grandbabies. Which is way cooler then all those other skills put together.

Moving on, here's William in a stunning pair of bowling shoes. I bet they'd be good for walking in the dark as well.

We went to the beach two days in a row. We got to go to the Navy beach, which only Navy people have access to, which was sort of cool. There was a big fence across the sand and on the other side, with Hotel Del Coronado in the background, the beach was packed with people. On our "private" side of the fence, not so much.

The bowling alley was also on the base. As was the Nex (shopping), a free movie theatre, a golf course, fast food restaurants and lots of other stuff. It's this whole little world unto itself and it sort of surprised me, although it's not like I didn't know it. But it's always this - it's one thing to know something intellectually from a distance and another thing to experience it yourself.

So as I was saying, we went to the beach. The first day the boys took a skim board. They pretty much sucked at skim boarding. The second day I bought them a boogie board. Joe didn't suck at that. William couldn't quite figure out how to "catch" the wave. Fortunately, towards the end of the day, he "got" it and happily rode the waves all the way in until we were ready to go home. I caught a wave or two and then spent most of the afternoon walking in the surf. And I'm still sore from the workout! Lisa settled for catching some rays instead of waves. Here's a bunch of photos of us at the beach.

In this next photo, see the little spot of white in the bottom of the wave, just to the left of Joe and the board? That's William's head as the wave went over him.

Joe trying to show William how to time the wave.

Happy pregnant woman in the sun.

William finally riding them in.

A tired but happy teen.
Hotel Del Coronado in the background. This is on telescopic lens. We were actually a lot farther up the beach.

So that's the trip. There was more driving home of course. Already mentioned that. And now I'm home. And staying there for a while. Knock on wood.


Blogger kristen said...

nice writeup :)

the hotel del (as my gramma and great aunt call it) is wonderful. the grannies, mom, my cousin and i all went there to lunch once (when they were still serving lunches). the grannies went there when they were in high school for a few dances or cotillians. it's wonderful listening to them talk about it.

i loved all the pictures you shared with us. i miss the so. cal beaches. ahhhh warm ocean instead of veddddy cold ocean :)

1:32 PM  
Blogger :-D eirdre said...

The Hotel Del was one of the places I actually did stay on my first visit west. We traveled with a honeymoon couple - they stayed in a turret, we stayed ocean-front. Beautiful place.

Your photos really have improved - nice to actually READ the directions, and have them help ! LOL

Ok this and the other blog were good catch up posts - now get to work and make something and start with your "European" photos again -

Crack crack crack - be careful of the whip!

3:52 PM  
Blogger Deb R said...

Those are such great photos!

The smoke one was a little freaky because it looks like a tornado!

7:25 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

I thought the same thing as Deb - the smoke looks like a tornado! Thanks for sharing all your ups and downs of the trip with us, and all the cool photos. I just don't do good on travels but love to hear/see other people's!

6:25 AM  

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