Summer Travel Map

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Enjoying Santa Fe

September 28, 2008
Santa Fe, NM

We've been enjoying our stay in Santa Fe so far, alternating "busy" days with "easy" days. The weather's been pretty good, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. Rain has been sporadic and mostly after bedtime, and we're acclimating well to the 7,000'+ altitude.

Similar to our stop in Page at Lake Powell, when we pulled into the park we noticed quite a few Monaco motorhomes. As it turned out and unbeknown to us, the Monacos In Motion caravan that left Lake Powell had just ended here! Even more Monacos were on the scene and pulling in; another caravan was forming up to leave. It was great to catch up with some prior acquaintenances and meet some new people at their evening "happy hour".

On Tuesday, we did some grocery shopping. We didn't particularly have a list of items or a meal plan, which made things a little difficult, but we explored the local Farmer's Market for vegetables, and the nearby Whole Foods for cheese and other specialty items. We saw a nice piece of halibut and some fresh mushrooms, so dinner was identified. The rest of the week, we decided to work with things we already had on hand, like linguine with chorizo and shrimp.

Wednesday was a rest day, although we did some cleaning and laundry.

On Thursday, we took the afternoon to drive into Santa Fe proper and poked around in some shops. It was a nice, sunny day, so I got some photos (click here) here at the park and in town.

Friday was a day that was planned in advance. We had tickets for two events at the Satna Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta (how could we not?), and then a dinner reservation for the evening. We decided to board the pups, since we wouldn't be able to walk and feed them on schedule, and we dropped them off mid-morning before we headed into town.

Our first seminar was at La Fonda Hotel,a dn it involved a panel discussion focusing on Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. We really enjoyed the discussion, and especially the 8 different wines that were poured. We'd met two of the panel members before, about a year-and-a-half ago when we were in southern California, and we've had wines from all four participating wineries, so this was a chance to get "inside perspective" on some of our favorites.

Since we had some time between sessions, we decided to have lunch, and chose a local place by the name (Coyote Cafe, which was one of our old haunts when we lived in NYC). Geri had "mucho nachos" (huge plate) and I had a duck quesidilla. Make a note, if anyone tells you a mango caipirinha is a good idea, forget it.

Our next session was the "reserve tasting and silent auction", and it was set up at the El Dorado Hotel ballroom. About 100 different booths were set up and a huge crowd shuffled around tasting whatever their hearts desired. There were wines from all around the world, although California dominated due to the proximity. We tasted several nice wines, although Geri petered out about halfway through due to the crowd and the heat. I toughed it out until I finished the room, and we actually won a lot in the auction (6 bottles of 2005 Zaca Mesa Black Bear Block Syrah).

We then had a nice dinner at Pranza, purportedly the best Italian restaurant in town. It was quite nice, with a wonderful decor and atmosphere and good food. Geri had a nice lasagna and I had a steak, and neither of us finished everything on our plates.

Yesterday, we rested. OK, maybe I nursed a bit of a hangover. We picked up the dogs in the morning, and weren't completely satisfied with their care, since their bedding (and parts of them) had been wet (if you know what I mean). Geri gave them a "tubbie" and washed their beds, and they were all settled down by evening. I did some post-processing on the recent photos in preparation for posting today.

Today was also a relatively quiet day. We did some shopping (a bacon press for the outside griddle, food for the next few days), walked the pups, met a 4 1/2 month old Yorkie down the way, and watched a little football. All in all, a very nice week!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On the road to Santa Fe

September 22, 2008
Santa Fe, NM

On Monday, we left Show Low and headed for Santa Fe. I made a slight change in the route in order to stick with our strategy of avoiding Interstates where practical. Rather than head 30 miles north from Show Low to pick up I-40 in Holbrook, we decided to head east on US-60. This route took us all the way to Socorro, NM, where we took I-25 north, through Albuquerque, to Santa Fe. OK, so we didn't avoid the Interstate altogether, but it was a good choice all the same.

This route took us past the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array radio telescope. There was a convenient rest area right at the site, and it was an opportune time for a rest, so the location was perfect for us. This installation was featured in the movie Contact, one of Geri's favorite sci-fi films.

After our break, it was a smooth ride to Socorro and then north to Santa Fe. We ran into some traffic as we passed through Albuquerque (there's no bypass loop for some reason) but we were early enough to avoid "rush hour". By 4:00, we were parked at our latest "home base", Santa Fe Skies RV Park. This park is about a mile off I-25 (no real highway noise - yea!) and on a small hill about 10 miles south of downtown Santa Fe. That makes it a little breezy but convenient and quiet. We have a nice view of New Mexico's famous sunsets and Santa Fe's nighttime lights from the park. Santa Fe is the state capitol, but there are no tall buildings in the city, so it looks quite different than other medium-sized cities. Our plans call for more exploration during the week.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Nice Trailer"

September 20, 2008
Show Low, AZ

I can't believe I'm posting to the blog again so soon, but just had to capture this while it's fresh...

We made a nice cod with a pine nut brown butter sauce paired with orzo with parmigiano and peas, and had just retired to the couch with our wine after eating when the dogs started barking at the door. Since this is normal behavior if someone walks by with a dog, I simply went over to distract and correct (thanks, Cesar). I found a strange little woman, reeking of cigarette smoke and half (and I'm being generous here) in the bag, looking in the door and talking to Maya. She wandered up with a wine glass in her hand, and was in the mood to talk. She invited herself in (Merlin was pretty good, so this was good practice for him), sat down, and just went on and on about life in Wisconsin, what a jerk her hubby is (can you say trailer-park redneck?), and what a nice "trailer" we have.

I immediately started thinking of exit strategies. News flash: it's a lot easier to exit when you're not already in your own house. I thought that if I started doing the dishes, she'd get the hint, but she was way beyond that. Since she was talking about walking her dog (or dogs, or the dogs she used to have but died, or whatever), once I was done with the dishes, I announced that we needed to walk the dogs. This had the desired effect, as we were able to get her outside and on her way (eventually on her way, since she started off in the wrong direction in the dark).

I'm thinking she'll be wondering tomorrow where that nice "trailer" went (assuming she remembers her evening in the first place). You meet the most interesting people while traveling... :-)

Antelope Slot Canyon

Note: this is the last (!) of a series of posts that deal with topics covered before in the Blog, but now we have the pictures processed to prove it!

September 9, 2008
Antelope Slot Canyon, Navajo Reservation near Page, AZ

Also covered in a prior post, we had an excellent time visiting the Antelope Slot Canyon. Starting from the tour company office in "beautiful downtown Page", we (Geri and I plus 10 others) piled into the back of an old Ford 4WD pickup outfitted with bench seats and rattled and bumped our way to the Antelope Canyon on the Navajo Reservation, just outside town. Antelope Canyon has been formed, of course, by Antelope Creek, which only runs when it rains. Heavily. Within +/- 8 miles.

Fortunately for us, the threatening showers that day held off and found a different area to rain on. The last 3 miles or so of the truck ride take you right up the dry creek bed, through quite a bit of loose sand. Our guide (driver) spent some time "playing" in the sand, power-sliding around curves and weaving across ruts. The passengers concluded that he needed to try riding in the back, just once.

The primary focus on the tour was photography; there are cheaper and shorter tours earlier and later in the day for people who just want to see the sight/site. When I return (I definitely would like to go back), I'll try to find a time of year when it's less crowded, and maybe find a private (as opposed to truckload) tour. No matter what, this was probably the highlight of the stay in Page/Lake Powell, photographically speaking. For the pure experience, it was right up there with the river rafting.

Click here for selected photos. I'll probably post some more pictures in the future, since I want to play around with cropping, retouching, and color management with some of the better photos from this set.

River Rafting on the Colorado

Note: this is one of a series of posts that deal with topics covered before in the Blog, but now we have the pictures processed to prove it!

September 8, 2008
Colorado River, between Glen Canyon Dam and Lee's Ferry

As reported in a prior post, we spent an afternoon on a "smooth water" rafting trip on the Colorado River, starting at the Glen Canyon Dam (well, actually, we started at the tour company's offices in Page and they bussed us to the Dam) and Lee's Ferry, where Glen Canyon ends and the Grand Canyon begins. It was a wonderful trip and we learned quite a bit.

For example, we found out that much of the vegetation along the riverbanks (and similar areas all over the Southwest) is Tamarisk trees that were introduced from the Mediterranean in the late-1800s to help stabilize the river banks. They've done an exceptional job at this. Unfortunately, the Salt Cedar, as it's also known, is extremely invasive and has spread to over a million acres of habitat. The worst part is that these trees have a huge appetite for water; each one transpires the weight of its foliage every hour during the day. That's a huge amount of water being lost, and water issues are a large and growing issue in this area. Well-knkown rivers like the Colorado and Rio Grande are barely a trickle by the time they reach the sea; all the water is siphoned off for human consumption. I hope they figure out a way to manage this in the future!

In addition to the educational side of the tour, we also enjoyed the quiet parts of the river. Since this was a "smooth water" trip, we didn't have rapids to contend with. At several points, our guide cut the outboard motor and let the raft drift for extended periods. Everyone on board sat quietly and took in the experience. Needless to say, we really enjoyed this tour.

Click here for some photos...

Boat trip to Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Note: this is one of a series of posts that deal with topics covered before in the Blog, but now we have the pictures processed to prove it!

September 6, 2008
Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah

Here are another set of photos from one of our excursions while we were at Lake Powell. We booked ourselves on the 1/2 day boat tour "up river" to Rainbow Bridge National Monument. The Monument is contained within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and the only practical way to get there is by boat. The "overland route" is a hike of about 17 miles each way across the Navajo Reservation (guide required). The boat trip is about 50 miles each way but takes two hours as opposed to two days. Needless to say, we never even considered the hike.

The boat trip was nice and the hike about 3/4 of a mile from the boat to the namesake arch was easy. It was interesting to see how the NPS has constructed a flexible floating dock to accommodate visitors to the Monument. Since the arch is in what's called a "side canyon" off the Lake, the distance from the water's edge to the arch can vary considerably depending on the Lake's water level. When the Lake is full, the water is almost up to the bottom of the arch. With the lake level down, the dock extends over 1/4 of a mile, allowing for safe navigation and easy access. It was quite interesting to see the 65' tour boat navigate through the side canyon that was probably 100' or less wide at points. Fortunately, the high cliffs keep the winds relatively calm at the water level, so we weren't really in any danger of a crash.

I hiked most of the way to the arch ("bridge" is really a misnomer, since there isn't really a way to cross anything on it), and stayed back of the other tourists to try to get a photo or two without people in the foreground. I was a little disappointed at the behavior of some people on the trip; since this is a sacred site to the Navajo, Ute, and several other tribes, you're encouraged to "look but not touch" and to avoid the area immediately under the arch. Unfortunately, a few people seem to have taken this as a challenge. It would have been nice to leave them behind...

In any event, click here for some photos from this excursion. In the overall scheme of things we were happy that we did this trip but enjoyed the river rafting and Antelope Canyon (pictures still to come!) tours better, so our recommendation to anyone with limited time in the area would focus on being selective.

Photo Trip to Utah: Cedar Breaks, Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon

Note: this is one of a series of posts that deal with topics covered before in the Blog, but now we have the pictures processed to prove it!

August 30, 2008
Southern Utah

One of the nice things about where our "home base" was at Lake Powell is that we were able to make day trips to various landmarks and parks in the "Grand Circle" area. There are many parks and special areas within relatively close proximity to each other in this part of the country. Of course, the emphasis is on "relatively", in this case a full day of driving.

We started out heading northwest along US-89 into Utah, through Kanab and past the access road to Zion National Park. We bypassed Zion this time because they use a shuttle bus serevice inside the Park to reduce traffic congestion. Since we had the dogs with us, that would have been impractical. A little further on, we found the road that would take us to Cedar Breaks National Monument. This little-known National Park Service area is a natural ampitheater carved from the rocks and cliffs, and bears a striking resemblance to Bryce Canyon, its neighbor to the northeast. We had our picnic lunch by one of the overlooks, and I hiked up one of the trails to see an ancient stand of bristlecone pines.

Next, we headed to Bryce Canyon National Park. The access road tothe Park passes right through Red Canyon, which made for a good stop for a few photos and a "rest". It's amazing how spoiled we are to travel in the motorhome, where a "rest stop" can be just about anywhere we want. In the Range Rover, not so much.

We drove the full length of Bryce, making note of photo opportunities along the way. Bryce is basically a linear park, running north to south with several side roads and numerous overlooks along the main road; you get out by backtracking the way you came in. As we made our way back to the main gate, we stopped at quite a few spots for photos, until the clouds started gathering and we felt a few drops. Fortunately, any real rain held off until after we were already heading back to Lake Powell.

Click here for some pictures from this day trip.

I'd identified a shortcut back to Lake Powell that would have cut over a hundred miles off the trip. Unfortunately, it would have entailed driving about 20 miles on an "unimproved" road. Discretion being the better part of valor, I knew that rain and dirt roads aren't a good combination in this part of the country. We made it home in fine shape by sticking to the same route we'd taken, along US-89. We'll save the back-road adventure for another visit...

Grand Canyon North Rim Pictures

Note: this is one of a series of posts that deal with topics covered before in the Blog, but now we have the pictures processed to prove it!

August 27, 2008
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

As previously reported, we made a day trip to the North Rim from our spot along Lake Powell. It was more or less a full day trip, since we had to travel several hundred miles and didn't get home until well after dark. If we'd gotten an earlier start, and had been closer to the park, I probably would have spent more time making photographs, using various filters and different lighting conditions. On the other hand, some of the pictures came out OK; click here to see them.

Nice stay at Show Low

September 20, 2008
Show Low, AZ

We're winding down our stay at Show Low, since we head for Santa Fe on Monday. There's not a whole lot to do here, and we were looking for a place to relax for a bit after all the activities around Lake Powell, so this has worked out well. We've puttered with a few things around the coach and got in some reading (nothing new for Geri, but a nice change for me) and maybe even an afternoon nap. Of course, there's been an unusual amount of monitoring of financial news and analysis this past week as well, but that's for a different blog. And, the lack of substantial rain means that the coach hasn't sunk into the ground any further. :-)

We've had generally nice weather, but most days there have been "pop-up" thunderstorms in the general vicinity. I suspect that this phenomenon is related to the topography of the land and the prevailing air currents at this time of year. Any moisture pulled into southern Arizona at elevations ranging up to 3,000-4,000 feet collides with the 7,000-8,000 foot Mongollan Rim and White Mountains (no, they're not just in New Hampshire), clouds build up, and rain falls. My niece Alyson (studying meteorology) could probably provide a more technical explanation.

Fortunately, we've had little of the rain actually fall on us. The relatively flat terrain where we are means that we can see pretty well into the distance in all directions, and you can see rain falling somewhere most every afternoon. We were fortunate to see a rainbow the other evening as we were getting ready for dinner. It was quite bright, and for a while there was a faint shadow of a second bow. We haven't seen a double rainbow since we were in Oregon last fall. This one lasted quite a while, since conditions were just about perfect: a slow-moving shower to the east and a setting sun to the west. And we didn't even get wet!

Yesterday (Friday), we took a ride east and then south, just to explore the White Mountains. We've never been in this part of the state before, and it was interesting to reflect on the notion that Arizona is way more diverse than most people think - it's not just about the deserts. Many of the areas through Springerville and Alpine down to Hannagan Meadow reminded us of Yellowstone in Wyoming, just without the geothermal features.

The road (US-191) to Hannagan Meadow runs along a picturesque little creek, so we stopped at a couple of spots for some photos. I got a couple of interesting shots, although the local wildlife (a chipmunk and a duck) were less than pleased with my presence.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lake Powell Area Pictures

Note: this is one of a series of posts that deal with topics covered before in the Blog, but now we have the pictures processed to prove it!

August 22-26, 2008
Lake Powell/Page, AZ

We really enjoyed our stay at Lake Powell, and will probably make plans to return in the future (although we'll do a better job of avoiding the heat when we do!). I've finally had a chance to sort through the large number of photos from our visit, and will post them in a series of Blog entries.

This first set are of the Lake Powell area generally: where we parked, the Glen Canyon Dam, various side trips around the southwestern end of the Lake.

Click here to see the online photo album.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Four Corners

Note: this is one of a series of posts that deal with topics covered before in the Blog, but now we have the pictures processed to prove it!

August 22, 2008
US-160 near Shiprock, NM

On our drive from Durango, Co, to Page, AZ, we passed the Four Corners Monument. We'd stopped there before, years ago on our first "RV Rental Vacation", but figured we'd stop again since we were passing by. This made an especially good "rest stop" since it's truly in the middle of nowhere. US-160 cuts across the extreme northwestern tip of New Mexico, and the access road to the Monument is just under ½ mile.

We found that the only thing changed in the 15 or so years since we’ve been here is a toll booth! They now charge $3 a head to get in. Since this monument is on Navajo land that borders several other tribes, hopefully the money stays “on the rez”. Anyway, in addition to the state and tribal flags and a small viewing stand, there’s a survey marker surrounded by a concrete pad with the state lines etched into it, and a plaque of each state’s seal included. Can you name all four states?* Extra points: do you know when this designation could possible have been effective?**

In addition to the Monument, there are two dirt parking lots and a series of wooden sheds where locals sell handmade jewelry and “Indian Fry Bread” (“fried dough” to those of us from the Northeast). Other than that, there’s nothing for miles around. I tried to cobble together a panoramic picture of the area. Even though I left a filter on the lens that screwed up the tonal elements, I posted it anyway to give a sense of the area.
* New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona

** New Mexico and Arizona, the 47th and 48th states, were admitted in January and February, respectively, of 1912. For those of us who grew up in the Northeast, it’s sometimes strange that everything doesn’t date from 1776!

Final question in the trivia trail: Which of the states in the Northeast was not one of the original 13? Email me with answers.

Blue skies and... hail?

September 16, 2008
Show Low, AZ

We've been relaxing and enjoying the nice weather. Yesterday, we made a quick trip back to Show Low (about a 15 mile round trip) to pick up a prescription, some replacement fluorescent light bulbs, and a few fill-in grocery items. Fortunately, Home Depot and Walmart are right next to each other, and we got everything we needed.

We were just finishing up in Wally World when we started to hear a dull roar coming from the roof. At first, it sounded like they had turned on the air conditioning. As it got louder, we realized it was raining - very hard. Now, mind you, when we went into the store I could have sworn that there wasn't a cloud in the sky! By the time we made it through the quick-check line to the door, the rain was mixed with pea-sized hail that was accumulating on the vehicles in the parking lot. We made a dash for the car (help to be parked in the handicapped spot right near the door), got soaked in a matter of 75', and headed home (windows all open, of course). Within 2-3 miles, we ran out of the rain and the temperature went from 63° to 77° in a matter of minutes. As it turned out, the storm was moving to the west, away from us, so we didn't get any rain out of it. This was a good thing, as we're sitting on soft ground as it is! I guess that's how it is in the land of "pop-up thunderstorms.

When we got home, Geri whipped up a fabulous dinner of Angel Hair Pasta with traditional red sauce (aka "gravy" in Philly) and sauteed pork cutlets (no veal to be had here in the sticks). Other than my eating too much, it was perfect!

Today, we'll do some puttering around the house and relax. Here's an example of how mundane the motorhome maintenance activities can be: once a year or so, I have to go around and tighten all the cabinet and drawer handles. Today was the lucky day for that. I have a few other similarly exciting things planned for the rest of the week.

Since we're on Mountain Standard Time, we're already getting used to the shorter days and earlier sunsets. This, coupled with the cooler temperatures, has caused us to cut back on our outside evenings; we're putting on more layers and closing windows by 7:00 PM here. Of course, Maya Lynn has been getting me up between 6:30 and 7:00 AM when the sun comes up, but that's OK. When we get back to Peoria a month from now, it'll still be warm enough that outside activities have to be completed by 9:00 to 10:00 AM anyway!

OK, enough of this. It's started to "spritz" outside, and this will be a good afternoon to catch up on some photo sorting, shrinking, and posting.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Put another log on the fire...

September 14, 2008
Show Low, AZ

We wrapped up our stay at Lake Powell and have moved to Show Low in the White Mountains of Arizona. Since things had cooled off somewhat last week at Lake Powell, we were able to pack in several of the activities there that we'd planned but deferred. It's cooler here, so we're adjusting to the "good sleeping weather"!

Last Monday, we spent a pleasant afternoon taking a 5-hour river rafting trip down the Colorado River. This was a "smooth water" trip; no rapids involved. The section of the river from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lee's Ferry (about 15 miles) is relatively calm and scenic, with the river passing under cliffs ranging from 900' at the start to over 1,300' near the end. This section of the river passes through the last portion of the Glen Canyon NRA. From Lee's Ferry on, it's all part of Grand Canyon National Park. As we were disembarking, we watched several groups getting ready to depart downriver into some serious white water rafting territory. They say that some of the rapids exceed the "Class 5" high end of the rating scale. We were fine with the smooth water, thank you very much!

There were about 60 people signed up for the trip, and it involved three motorized rafts (22 person capacity) moving downriver separately but generally within sight of each other. Probably 65% of the group was composed of European tourists, about average for what we've seen over the last month or so. Seeing the US has generally been a real bargain for Euro-based consumers this year.

So, if the cliffs are 900' high, how do you get to the rafts? You take the tunnel! When the Glen Canyon Dam was built in the late-50s/early-60s, they constructed a 2-lane tunnel that travels for about two miles from the rim to what's now the powerhouse (8 megawatts) at the base of the dam. Even though this is a secure area (we had to wait while they searched the bus and our bags before entering), the rafting company is granted access to haul people through the tunnel. It reminded me of being in the NYC subways; if you're in the first or last car, you can see what the tunnels look like.

The trip downriver was informative (the guide was reasonably good) and scenic (in addition to the cliffs and rock formations, we say a pair of ospreys and a pair of golden eagles), but not highly photogenic. There's just too much contrast between the bright sky and the dark rocks to get good shots without using some filters on the lens to help bring things into balance. Accordingly, I got plenty of what I'll call "snapshots" as opposed to "landscapes". I'll probably be able to make some adjustments using Photoshop (I know - I'm way behind in posting a series of pictures). From Lee's Ferry, it was about an hour's ride on the bus back to Page. All in all, a highly recommended tour.

Tuesday brought another adventure, a trip to Antelope Canyon on the Navajo Indian Reservation. This is a "slot canyon" carved in the relatively soft sandstone by a sporadic creek ("Antelope Creek"; go figure), and is a popular spot for photographers. In fact, we signed up for the "photography tour", paying a little extra for a longer tour during the middle of the day when the sunlight is more likely to enhance the view. This is one of those "hop in the back of a converted 4 wheel drive pickup with 11 other people" tours. There are several Navajo companies ("regulations" dictate a native guide when you're on the Reservation) operating out of storefronts in Page, and more "independents" trolling for customers at the entrance to the canyon, about 5 miles outside town.

After a blustery drive to the canyon and a very bumpy 2-3 mile trip up the sandy dry riverbed, we arrived at the designated spot, where a crack in the 50' high sandstone marked the entrance. With so many available guide companies and this being a fairly popular site, it was mobbed with about 15 truckloads of tourists. Most of the people in our group were from Germany, except for one couple from NYC.

Antelope Canyon is about as far removed from the other canyons we've visited (Glen, Grand, Bryce) as you can get. Think narrow cave, except that there's no "roof", as the water wore through the rock from the top. It's about 300' long, with multiple "rooms", some tight spaces, and interesting acoustics. It was somewhat difficult to make good photographs, with lots of people in the way and (strangely enough) similar issues with contrast to the rafting trip. I'd like to go back at a quieter time of year, find a guide for a more 1:1 tour, and bring all the gear (filters, etc.) to improve the photo opportunities. Overall, though, this was probably the highlight of our visit, tourism-wise.

After two days of tourist activities, we used our last two days at Lake Powell to clean up and get ready for travel. Geri did a few loads of laundry and prepared some pasta for a travel meal, I cleaned the bugs off the front of the coach, and we did a little shopping. I had one unscheduled maintenance activity, and re-learned an old skill in the process. I noticed that one of the awnings on the coach was starting to fray, and on further examination found that the stitching holding the seam along the edge was giving way. Geri bought the necessary sewing items and up the ladder I went with needle, thread and thimble. My grandfather had taught me how to repair sails (among other things like make custom braided ropes and swear in Swedish) when I was a kid, but I'll admit only a little of that came back. I think I did a passable job, although I'll probably need to re-visit this repair when we get back "home" and I can use the 10' ladder to get a better view of things. I'll also have to examine all the awnings, as it's unlikely that only one seam will fail.

Friday was our travel day, and we got off slightly ahead of schedule around 9:30 AM. I'd saved some of the outside packing (primarily the stoves, as we cooked outside Thursday night), did the final "dump" and checked the tire pressures and lights. We only had 266 miles to travel in a zig-zag pattern; we're only 200 miles to the southeast "as the crow flies". We headed south on US-89 to Flagstaff, then west on I-40 past Winslow to Holbrook, following the old "Route 66" path. From Holbrook, we turned south on AZ-77, passing through the little town of Snowflake (we're over 6,500 feet in elevation, and it definitely snows here in the winter) before finding our stop.

This park is using the "ownership/destination" business model: the sites are for sale ($39k-$65k for a 30' x 70' plot), there's a golf course and several man-made ponds throughout, and they're even developing an airpark (fly in and park your plane by your house) - someday. Most of the ~500 sites that are sold have "park model" RVs (they look like mini "single-wides") on them, although there are site-built houses along the golf course. It's nice, but not for us at this point, as we'd prefer to travel in the summer as opposed to "stay put".

They've designated a small number of spots for rentals to "transients", and these spaces are definitely not as well maintained as the "for sale" ones. Each site has a concrete patio, but the parking is on gravel. They've spread a thin layer of crushed lava rock (this area had a lot of volcanic activity) over the gravel, but recent rains have made the ground pretty soft. Our right front tire is sunk about 5" into the soft earth; we'll be watching to make sure that we don't settle in further. As long as we don't have more rain, we should be OK (fingers crossed).

Yesterday, we relaxed and did some grocery shopping for the week in town. The name "Show Low" apparently comes from an ownership dispute in the 1870s that was settled with a card game in which the winner was challenged to "show low and win". He did and the place name was defined. Interesting story...

There are a couple of "scenic drives" in the area that I'm thinkng about, but we may have to defer that kind of activity depending on the gas situation post "Ike". We've heard about shortages in the Phoenix area (about 135 miles southwest of us) and price hikes all over due to the refinery shut-downs in Texas and Louisiana. I'd hate to get caught short simply because we were out driving around to see the sights. Price, I can deal with (don't have to like it), but stuck, not so much.

Anyway, we're here until the 22nd, have enough diesel to get us to Santa Fe and Albuquerque in October, and the sun is shining. No worries...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Still Catching Up...

September 7, 2008
Lake Powell/Page, AZ

We're back at Lake Powell for another week, and we've got several things scheduled over the next few days to take advantage of the slightly lower temperatures and otherwise beautiful weather.

Our drive back north on Thursday was uneventful, with fine driving weather except for strong winds. What a difference from the trip a few days before! We left Peoria's 105 degree weather around 10:30 AM and were back at the coach by mid-afternoon. After re-deploying (we'd put a lot of the outside stuff away for safe-keeping while we were away), we "cheated" for dinner with a Bertolli pasta-in-a-bag, which was decent but nowhere as good as home-made.

Friday was a "catch up" day, making sure that everything was settled and doing some shopping. We had to re-register for our space in the campground, due to National Park Service rules (the NPS controls things even though all services are outsourced to Aramark). The rules state that you can stay for 14 days at a time, with a maximum of 30 days per calendar year. If you want to stay longer than two weeks (we did; we're here for three), you can "check out" and "check in" again. I rode the bike over to the office and completed everything without ever having to move the coach. This may have been because the park really cleared out after the Labor Day weekend. About 30-40% of the "guests" are still Europeans generally arriving late in the day and staying one night, though. They remind us of how we got started, flying somewhere and trying to see as many things as possible in a 2-week vacation.

Yesterday, we took one of the boat tours offered here at the lake, this one to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, about 50 miles "up river" (the "lake" is still the Colorado River, after all). This is sort of a park-within-a-park, since it's contained within the Glen Canyon NRA (National Recreation Area). A "monument" and a "recreation area" have different rules about which part of the bureaucracy is in charge and what the rules for use are, all under the National Park Service.

We took the boat from the Lodge (a rather large, modern hotel), and the tour was about 5 hours (2 hours up, 1 hour to sight see, and 2 hours back). The Rainbow Bridge is a good-sized stone arch about 2/3 of a mile from the docking point at the current lake level. When the lake is at full capacity, the water level just about reaches the arch. The NPS has constructed a flexible floating dock that they can move and reconfigure as needed. Probably 25% of the walk from the boat to the arch is along the floating dock, with the rest climbing a moderately well-maintained trail. As expected, it was difficult to get photos without a horde of tourists in them, and it was a little disappointing to see the way people acted (this site, like many others in the southwest, is sacred ground for several Native tribes).

Dinner Friday night was a pork tenderloin done on the grill with pan-roasted red potatoes and carrots. We've been doing a much better job of cooking and eating outside since we've been here, since the evenings are warm and the bugs are few (there are more here than in Peoria, but not bad enough to keep us from enjoying the great outdoors). Last night, I grilled some chicken thighs and Geri served them with with the pre-made orzo from the other night and sauteed snow peas and tomatoes - excellent! I'd planned to make a sweet-and-sour chicken but didn't have all the ingredients, so we'll hold that recipe for a later date.

Today was another "catch up" day. Geri did some laundry and I cleaned up the bug debris on the front of the coach and Range Rover. Mundane stuff. This afternoon, I need to take the 12v cooler we keep in the car apart and see why it's making a lot of noise and not cooling like it used to. I'd prefer to avoid having to replace it but if it's needed, I'd prefer to wait until we're back in Peoria so I can order the replacement online rather than pay retail. I've done some research and there are a variety of options, at very different price points, so I'd just as soon keep this one going for a while.

Tomorrow, we're doing a river rafting trip (wow!) and Tuesday we're taking a tour on the Navajo Reservation to a "slot canyon" that should be photogenic. It's another busy week, as we'll then get ready to move on for Show Low, another part of the state we've never visited. And, I've got a backlog of pictures to process and post!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It has been a busy week!

September 3, 2008
Peoria, AZ

Whew! It's been quite busy over the past week, and I haven't had the time I'd wanted to keep the blog up to date. Primarily, that's been related to some picture-taking opportunities, but also to our first scheduled return to the Phoenix area.

Last week was hot at Lake Powell, hotter than I'd expected it to be. I wanted to get close enough to home so that we could make relatively easy trips back for Geri's dental work, but still beat the heat. I didn't do the right research when scheduling our stops, but we're definitely making the best of it.

We made a couple of day trips aimed at finding cooler spots, and were very successful. I also got some good photos, and that's the source for some of my delay in posting. I've been playing around with some new filters for the camera lenses, primarily a new circular polarizer (this filter helps reduce glare and enhance blue skies). As a result, some of the images I've captured are too dark, and require some PC processing before I can post them. I just haven't gotten to that work yet, so pictures will come later.

Last Wednesday, we drove south from Lake Powell, then west to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This area is known for thunderstorms on summer afternoons and we saw some clouds building but didn't get wet. We found the 8,000+ foot elevations brought temperatures in the mid-60s to low-70s that were quite pleasant. We packed the pups and a lunch, and stopped to eat at a picnic area right along the Canyon. It was a nice trip, retracing our steps from a visit many years ago. For the return trip, we headed north from the Canyon into Utah, and then east back to Lake Powell. It was a long day, as we didn't get back home until well after dark.

On Saturday, we made another day trip, this time back into Utah, first stopping at Cedar Breaks National Monument, and then Bryce Canyon National Park. The geology and topography in these two areas is similar, although the Breaks is a natural amphitheater and Bryce is (duh) a canyon. Both are filled with rock features called hoodoos, vertical fingers of rock that have eroded away over time. We climbed higher on this loop, with Bryce topping out at 9,100 feet and Cedar Breaks around 10,600 feet; the temperature stayed in the low-to-mid 60s. The normal afternoon thunderstorms were forming as we left Bryce and we could see rain showers in the distance as we drove home.

Saturday night, the rains came to Lake Powell, after a long evening of a light show from the lightning in the distance. Since the forecast called for more rain on Sunday, we decided to move our trip back to Peoria up by a day, leaving Sunday morning instead of Monday. This was probably a wise choice, since we were able to get settled in and make sure that everything was OK with the house, and still have Monday open for any needed shopping, etc.

The drive from Lake Powell took a little under 5 hours, as planned, with a couple of stops for gas, food and "rest". It's pretty much a straight shot south from Page to Flagstaff along US-89 and then I-17 to Phoenix. It's a climb from 4,000 feet to over 7,000 near Flagstaff, then a drop to about 1,200 feet in Phoenix. Of course, this is spread over many miles, but you can definitely tell when you're going "up" or "down". There were storms around Flagstaff; we could see them in the distance as we approached from the north, then we got hammered for the first hour or so of driving once we got on I-17. We had rain so heavy at one point that I was glad there was an 18-wheeler ten car lengths ahead of me, because that was the only way I knew where the road was. Gladly, he actually stayed on the road! We ran out of the rain before we got to Phoenix, and it was just partly cloudy and warm (mid-90s, not 100+) when we got home.

Everything was fine with the house, which was fortunate given the holiday weekend. No exploding toilets when the water was turned on, and no issues with the gas. The A/C was reset from its 88 degree mark and everything cooled off nicely.

Monday was a day of running around. We did some shopping at Cabela's for replacement outdoor chairs and tables to keep in the coach; we'd seen some in CT and decided to pick them up before we head to the Balloon Fiesta. And, Geri had a chance to get a manicure and pedicure, since she was way overdue.

Tuesday, we started off at Geri’s periodontist. His task was to evaluate her dental implants for proper healing, and to “release” the first two to the prostodontist for installing the teeth. Fortunately, everything worked out very well, and we’re “good to go” for the first two implants. As expected, the second two implants need a bit more healing, and will then need to be “uncovered”. Apparently, on the “uppers”, they want the gum tissue to grow back and cover the implant for healing, something not needed on the “lowers”. We made the appointment for the “uncovering” in late October; that will need an additional month to heal before the process of installing teeth can start. I never realized how long this stuff takes!

Last night, we attended another baseball game, this time the local Diamondbacks hosting the St. Louis Cardinals. Although there’s a rumor that we jinxed the home team, we prefer to believe that they managed to lose “big time” all on their own. Chase Field is a beautiful park, though, and it was quite comfortable with the roof closed (95° outside and 77° inside at game time. The D-Backs lost, but it was a good game for the visitors; we were both surprised at how many St. Louis fans were in attendance. I suppose we shouldn’t be, though, since Phoenix is one of those places where “nobody is really from here”, with a lot of transplants. Fortunately, we had very good seats, about 30 rows up from the visiting dugout. We were also fortunate that the 20-something Cro-Magnon sitting in front of us with his pants hanging down left after the third inning, or maybe that he remembered to wear his “Superman” undies. Or both. Ugh! We really enjoyed seeing the “Cuervo Guy” hawking frozen Margaritas in the stands, and both commented on how much Al would have enjoyed the game and venue.

Today, we both had appointments with the prostodontist. Geri had her impressions taken for the teeth that will go on the implants, and that went very well. We decided to wait until we get back in October to have them installed, which will save us from having to drive back from Santa Fe later this month. I had my loose bridge re-cemented, and hopefully I’ll be able to get another year or so out of it before we have to rebuild it or move to an implant for me as well. I was worried that he wouldn’t be able (or willing) to do anything today, so I’d prepared myself, but it’s good to have it back in with something other than Fix-o-dent.

We’ve been eating well and enjoying the “wine box” since we’ve been back, shopping twice at AJ’s Fine Foods (our local gourmet shop). Monday, we had some nice steaks (filet mignon for Geri and porterhouse for me) and today we had some halibut fillets, poached with tomatoes and basil, with a creamy orzo with peas. Makes us anxious to get back for the winter!