Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 11: Then we're just going to have to walk?

Day 11 was significant for a few different reasons; meeting Toby the Desert Turtle was the first. This was the closest I’ve ever come to thinking “maybe we could have a pet, too.” (I have never had that thought, ever, until today!)

The drive to the Trail of 100 Giants from Ridgecrest was by far the most remote drive we’ve been on this entire trip. The terrain got really unique and there were no other cars or people for miles – just an occasional cow.

After what seemed a very long time of me silently wondering if we were going the right way, Eric asked the same question out loud. Not too comforting to be on that same page together! Check out this adorable little airport where we stopped to stretch.

Confusing, or amusing?

We got to the trail, high up on top of a mountain, and found one other person - a park ranger. The parking lot was closed off, the bathrooms were locked up, and he informed us that they were just about to close the road. He said they’d gotten snow up there recently and it was time to shut it down until Spring.

We stayed for a few minutes anyway and saw the most massive trees – it smelled so good in there along the trail, like fresh pine and wood. It’s hard to have pictures do it justice, partly because you just can’t fit any of these 1,500 year old trees entirely in a picture, both width and height.

Back where we’d parked, now there were two other cars. We asked about the drive down the other side, how long it would take, etc. They both said “It’s WAY worse – it’s a lot curvier (which I really couldn’t imagine, considering how curvy and narrow and long the drive up was) and takes a lot longer. And there’s some snow.” AH!!! Not what we wanted to hear. But that’s the way we needed to go to get to our lodging for the night.

Long story short, it was even worse than the warnings, we were just grateful no one threw up, I got a big headache (from 8,ooo feet down to 300 feet altitude in a couple of very stressful hours), and we decided to just bag the night's reservation for lodging (back up another mountain - I was done). So we headed straight for Monterey instead, just 3.5 hours away at that point.

When Eric announced our change of plans, "Well, today's the last day of driving on our trip!" our youngest replied in all seriousness, "So then we're just going to have to walk after that?" I think the pioneers would have been proud at that response!

We drove past Selma (the "Raisin Capital of the World"), past vineyards lined by palm trees, orchards, and fields of a variety of crops. Chased the sunset through (much milder, thank you!) mountain passes, and finally saw the sign we've been waiting to see for the past eleven days:

Of course by now there are all kinds of bugs on the windshield that the camera just can't ignore anymore.

So we're here! We made it and are looking forward to getting settled into our new life in Monterey. It will be a really exciting day when we can drive through a car wash to get rid of the rest of our trip's evidence...

...but that will have to wait until the reminder of Joplin (aka crunched bumper) is fixed first.

It's a good life!

This concludes my travel log "From Sea to Shining Sea". Northern Virginia feels so far away now, probably because we felt every mile go by a lot more tangibly than if we had flown and arrived here the same day. It was very, very cool to experience the gradual changes in topography, climate, time zones, and culture in our own country. I think I have a little better idea of the big picture now - basically that it's a lot bigger than I can really guess! And knowing that is a good thing. I think I feel another blog entry coming on...but for another day. Maybe when I need a break from going through boxes, and we have internet set up again. Until then, Happy Trails!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 10: On the road again

From Flagstaff, AZ to Ridgecrest, CA


Favorite Signs

Road Kill Cafe'

Holy Moses Wash

Saw our first palm trees! There were nine of them in the landscaping around IHOP, where stopped for lunch. After looking around for other palm trees in the area, our son concluded, "I guess they only grow at IHOP."

We crossed the border into California!!! A loud cheer went up in the car.

The price of gas went up almost a full dollar per gallon once we crossed the border. Hmm...

It's been very interesting to watch the topography change across the country.

The best part of the day, by far, was getting to stay with good friends we'd known in Virginia! We had a great time getting caught up since we saw them last and it was nice for our youngest to make the connection that when you move, you don't just disappear. When our friend was giving us directions, she mentioned that it would look like they lived in the middle of nowhere. But we've driven through the middle of several "nowheres" over the last week and a half, and they definitely live somewhere!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 9: The Canyon was indeed Grand

The Grand Canyon was simply amazing!

This was our first time here, but let me preface by saying I can only imagine how good we had it by being able to visit so late in the Fall. We cruised right through the entrance without any wait, and there were only a handful of other visitors to share the park and incredible views with. I'm guessing in the Summer it would be a little different story!

Within the first few minutes, we spotted this mule deer ("Look, it's a horse!") and watched it cross the path right behind us.

At Mather Point rim overlook, we stayed for beginning of a “free talk” given by a very wise looking - and sounding - Park Ranger. (That's how the notice read to gather for his half hour geology lesson.)

We left a little early to go hear several more “free talks” when we went to church at the Shrine of the Ages with the Grand Canyon Branch congregation. It was a fairly small group and we filled up the 2nd row... it was only slightly embarrassing that our youngest fell asleep and snored through the entire service. (Actually the funniest part was watching the leaders sitting up front trying not to laugh, too!)

I enjoyed the mural and bathroom doors in the shrine

At Lipan point, our little guy hopped on a rock (made my heart leap almost out of my chest), leaned forward, and exclaimed, “LOOK at the VIEW! And I’m on it!" He was actually almost in it. Yes, this is the same one who made me so nervous yesterday, too.

We ended our visit with a little trip up the Desert View watchtower.

The night ended with a very fun evening of music - my cousin, his daughter, and I played violin trios together! I thought of the many times we played with Grandad over the years, of when I got my first lesson from my uncle (his dad) and he taught me about "five dollar finger nails," and how cool it was to see the next generation off and running with our family's tradition of violin playing.

Times like these are the icing on the cake! Really, really sweet.

Day 8: Exploration and Celebration

Ah, a much needed day of R&R with cousins in Flagstaff. They really know how to celebrate Halloween, which made it an awesome holiday for our whole family this year!

We had Halloween pancakes for breakfast...

Experienced my first pine needle shower (when the wind blew the dry needles off the trees)

My cousin’s daughter spelled “Happy Halloween” out of fallen needles in their yard...these girls are so creative!

We enjoyed exploring Pumphouse Wash ("A classic Flagstaff river bed canyon - dry most of the year" according to my cousin, when I asked him how he would describe it. It was certainly a unique experience for us!)

Then we drove to Walnut Canyon, a very cool National Park with preserved cliff dwellings of early Native American Indians. “But if you have a 5 year old who likes to run and you don’t love heights, it’s not recommended” (my cousin’s wife gave me this disclaimer well after we’d found it out for ourselves!)

The climb back up took our breath away, literally.

Back home, they threw a rockin' Halloween Party – complete with kids in costume, delicious soups and homemade bread, eyeballs, pumpkin carving¸ and Monsters Inc. for the kids.

This is one Halloween we won't soon forget!

Day 7: The Day in Numbers

1 way trip from Albuquerque, NM to Flagstaff, AZ

3 bathroom stops

4 travelers (we haven’t left anyone behind yet)

1 more hour gained (it’s starting to become a habit now)

6.5 hours on the road (about half of what we did on Day 5, much to my relief)

1 tumbleweed stuck in the front grill + an untold number of dead bugs

12 phone calls between the Insurance Company, Dr’s offices, and me

3 calls ended mid-sentence due to signal loss

1.5 hours at Urgent Care clinic (SO grateful this number is as low as it is)

7,000 ft. elevation

2 fake mustaches on our Mario and Luigi that only lasted about
7 seconds each

Lots of treats and a few tricks (compliments of my cousin, Paul) at the Trunk or Treat

4 verses of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” on the hayride

20 degrees colder at night than anywhere else we’ve been on this trip – brrr!

4 wonderful cousins hosting us in Flagstaff!