Sunday, May 31, 2009

Our Visit to Page Arizona

In the middle of our vacation week Shana and I drove up to Page, Arizona. I had scheduled a float trip for us from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lee's Ferry through Colorado River Discovery. Careful examination of our schedule and budget argued against a river trip into the Grand Canyon, but through Colorado River Discovery we were able to book a half day trip at a very reasonable price that gave us a bottom-of-a-canyon experience we could fit into our trip. I was very satisfied with our tour. It was not a thrilling roller coaster ride through roiling rapids, but it was a slow paced smooth water ride down the river with a knowledgeable guide. The scenery was beautiful and our guide played the flute for us, which I enjoyed very much. We went through a Department of Homeland Security checkpoint which I found interesting although the checkpoint itself was not much to look at.

On the way up to Page Shana expressed a desire to alter our schedule to include one night in Page instead of driving back after dinner. After some discussion I agreed, and we set about planning another activity to see more of the area. I had seen pictures of Antelope canyon, but had not thought that we had time for a visit. Since we were staying through the next day I suggested that it would be a good place to go. To visit there you have to go with a Navajo Guide, and tours are scheduled at selected times. Luckily it was still early in the season and we had no trouble getting set up for a tour. We used Antelope Slot Canyon Tours, and went in a Suburban with our guide in a group of eight. The canyon is every bit as beautiful as it appears in photographs, and the small size of our group made it a very pleasant and personal experience. The crowd jammed into the tour office/trading post made me wonder if our trip would be a mob scene, but once we were underway the groups were well spaced out and I did not feel crowded at any time. We were picked up at our hotel at no extra charge, which was actually a big plus. Page is not very big and the tour departure point was easy to find, but parking there may have been difficult.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

At the Grand Canyon

Late Saturday afternoon we arrived at the canyon and set up our campsite, finishing up the tent erection in the dark. We roasted hot dogs over the fire, and settled down for the night. The exertion at the altitude of the North Rim made my heart pound and I was hyperventilating a bit, so my brain thought I might be running away from wolves, so I slept badly. I wasn't worried about it - I seldom sleep badly and on vacation I can always take a nap. It's worth noting that because we had to reschedule our vacation we got the last available site at the campground. We camped at site 57, which I did not thing would be a good spot. As it turned out it easily accomodated our large tent (not all of the sites will), and while I had thought being near the toilet would be a drawback it turned out great. The sites on either side of the nearest facility (located right behind out site) are reserved for law enforcement emergencies, which meant we had no one behind us all week and instead of having to go the long way around to the bathroom to avoid going through someone's campsite (something like walking through someone's house in terms of manners) we could just go straight through.

We fixed a big campsite breakfast, then off to the Grand Canyon Lodge we went, to give Shana her first view of the Grand Canyon. From the park gate to the door of the Lodge you don't see the canyon until you walk across the lobby and go downstairs. The downstairs lounge has beautiful 180 degree floor to ceiling windows and is a great place for your first look at the canyon - so dramatic and so worth planning for Shana's first view to be this one! We hung around the lodge for a bit, then went out for a walk to Bright Angel Point. This was an ideal first walk as the entire .75 mile is paved, and you are rewarded at the end with a lovely panoramic view. On the down side, it's also one of the few places on the North Rim where you can get any cell phone reception, so lots of people were taking advantage of it.

After having lunch at the lodge we went back to the campsite to nap. Shana went into the tent and I took over her amazing lounge chair with my book to nap. Just as I was settling down our neighbors started up an afternoon musicale. He was noodling around with his guitar, and thereby attracted the attention of another camper with a fiddle, who invited the guy with a banjo...Ultimately they had two fiddles, a dulcimer, two guitars, a banjo and a harp. They played until dark. If I had not been so tired I would have enjoyed them very much because they really did sound good. As is was I was mentally cursing them and calling them the Celtic Pretension Society and wishing them anywhere else. We ended up going back to the lodge to watch the sunset and enjoy a good beer in (relative) quiet. I was too tired for dinner, and went right to bed when we returned to camp.

Refreshed by a good night's sleep the next day was spent driving to various overlooks and taking short walks. As far as I can tell there is no spot which is not gorgeous. I took a lot of pictures, and while I doubt that it's possible to take an original photo at the Grand Canyon it's really hard to take a bad one. Click on any of these to enlarge, or just hop on over to my Flickr Gallery for a slide show.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tales From the Road Part Two

Once in Arizona we were ready to see some sights! We left Albuquerque early so we would have a couple of hours to devote to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert while still arriving at our campground before dark. I had stopped there briefly once before and was looking forward to seeing it again. Although we started out early it was midday before we had our first glimpse of the Painted Desert. The colors are not at their best under the blazing noon sun, but I thought it was still beautiful.

In addition the the colorful formations, there were some ruins and interesting petroglyphs to see. While we drove around to various viewpoints we enjoyed our leftovers from the previous day's lunch at the Big Texan. Shana shared her sandwich with one of the local Ravens.

The Petrified Forest was a treat. Not only were the logs beautiful and interesting, but we were lucky enough to see a few pronghorn antelope. I knew they lived there, but they are generally pretty shy and often you don't get a glimpse. They are also the fastest land animal in the New World, so if they don't like the look of you they can get out of view in a hurry. We lingered in that area for a while - there's a nice trail that winds around and lets you get a good look around. We left in the nick of time - we barely got the tent up before dark - in fact I finished staking out the fly in the dark. It was a long day, and we were glad to be settling down.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tales from the Road Part One

Last Friday the long-awaited trip to the Grand Canyon started with the drive to Albuquerque, a city whose name I have yet to spell correctly on the first try. We had all kinds of things packed for every eventuality, including three books on CD. This was a good thing because the first one we tried was a real dog. We persisted over two CD's before giving up in disgust and putting in a Sue Grafton mystery which suited us much better.

Our lunch stop was The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, where we stop any time we pass through. This is the home of the free 72oz steak (providing you can eat the whole meal in one hour). It's absolutely worth a stop, even if you don't fancy yourself a contender for the free steak. The steaks are good, the service is prompt, and the place must be seen to be believed. It even has an attached motel, a gift shop, a bar and slots. It's right on I40 and cannot be missed - it's the loudest yellow you've ever seen and generously festooned with every kind over sized eye catching tacky western junk. When we were there two contenders were attempting to earn the free steak dinner. We were not contenders, in fact we took half of our meal with us to eat for lunch the next day.

On the way to Albuquerque we kept our eyes peeled for roadside tourist traps. We saw plenty of casinos and trading posts, each more eye catching then the last. I saw a sign I could not believe but was not fast enough to get a picture of: "EAT HERE. GET GAS". Not getting that picture will be one of the great regrets of the trip.
At least I did manage to get a picture of one of the fire extinguishers at the Best Western nearest Old Town tarted up to look like a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Every one I saw in the hotel was so displayed, without apparent irony. We walked down to Old Town to enjoy a good dinner at the Church Street Cafe, and headed out early the next morning.

Monday, May 25, 2009


It's Towel Day. Do you know where your towel is?

Back From the Depths

Well, maybe not the total depths, but I am back from my Grand Canyon vacation. A casual examination tells me that we arrived back in Oklahoma City with all equipment intact, if filthy. Our initial packing was careful and Shana's midweek reorganization kept everything under control, but the last two days were rainy, so packing was more casual and loads of stuff is just plain grubby.
More and better entries on the Big Trip will follow, but pictures are already up and labeled on Flickr, so go take a peek. I'm pretty sure two or three canyon views are mislabeled, but I will get that cleaned up ASAP. They are still beautiful even if the names are wrong.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yes, I Have Lists

I have a list for every purpose. There is a camping list, a bike event list, a Florida vacation list, and a Boston vacation list. I keep them on Excel and print them off as needed. It's not really because I have any obsessive tendencies - quite the contrary. I keep them ready to go at all times because I am very likely to forget EVERYTHING. For a week of camping at the Grand Canyon there are a lot of things I don't want to forget. With list in hand I am ready to go anywhere. Tomorrow we put the bikes on the car and away we go. I won't be back until Memorial Day, so there will be no posts but Twitter updates until then.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dinner with The Spawn

Alex and Samantha joined me for dinner on Mothers' Day at my invitation. Sam came over early as she did not have supplies for making a card for me and hoped to make use of my craft stash. I had hoped to get a nice picture of Sam & Alex together while they were here, but as you can see, cooperation was in rather short supply.

Friday, May 08, 2009

An Old Sew and Sew

Aunt Rita's birthday made me actually break out the sewing machine. She's recently started using a walker. It's made her more confident in her balance and speeded her up amazingly. She'd been getting slower and slower walking anywhere; with the walker she's back to her usual energizer-bunny speed. Of course this means she does not have a free hand to carry her things around. This is an important issue because she's settling in at the nursing home and we've been encouraging her to get out of her room to meet people and get outside when the weather is fine. Like everyone else she feels better with a little exercise. Obviously she needed a tote bag for her walker. I looked around online to get an idea of how they were made, and set out to make one for her that would suit her taste and give her something original.

With some upholstery fabric I already had in my stash and a few fat quarters from the quilt shop around the corner I was ready to go. It took me most of the afternoon, but I ended up with a bag I think she'll love and that will hold the things she wants to take along with her. I double stitched the seams and generally made it as tough as I could because Rita has an amazing capacity to tear things up. The bag is lines with two different prints, with two smaller interior pockets. The exterior pockets are embellished with borders cut from the interior fabrics, embroidery with gold thread and beads. For some reason this detail is not showing up in the pictures. The rosettes on the front are made with both fabrics from the exterior pockets and centered with a knot from one of the interior fabrics. The straps are lined with the fabrics from the exterior pockets. Lots of detail, and it really came out the way I had hoped. The best thing about sewing projects is the instant gratification I get. Four hours of knitting would not have resulted in a finished item.

I learned a couple of things from this project. For one, I now understand why quilters have such big fabric stashes. The Savage Quilter just around the corner from me has so many beautiful fabrics that if I had not gone in with a pretty specific idea of what kind of additional colors and prints I wanted I would never have been able to decide. The ladies in the shop were so friendly and helpful that I will surely be dropping in again. The other revelation was that The Mighty Rowenta I pressured Shana into buying for me when our last cheapie iron gave out was worth every penny. The giant bursts of steam it gives out make the pressing involved in any sewing project so much more effective.

And even better - Shana is slipping over to the crafty side! She created a heat transfer on the computer to make Aunt Rita a T shirt for her birthday gift. I can hardly wait to see what her next project turns out to be.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

This weekend we had Vivian staying over Saturday night, and Aunt Rita came today to spend the afternoon on Sunday. I had hoped for some cycling time, but every moment when it was not actually raining it was cold and miserable. No bikes for us, so it was a good weekend for visiting.

Vivian came over after supper Saturday, and I made a tactical error settling her down for the night. I'd been putting her down in my crafts room because usually when she's here I have other overnight guests. She's settled down comfortably down on a pallet on the floor with a minimum of crying. I did not anticipate a problem settling her down in my bedroom - why would that not be even better? It's quieter and there are many fewer distractions around. Well, of course it's a room she has never seen much of, so she was not happy at all. I lay down next to her for a bit, and when she stayed a little restless I thought I'd bring my book in with my book light (it never bothers Shana). Turns out that is enough light to stimulate a little person. Vivian ran around the bed for a while, tugging at my book light cord and hair alternately. After a while I gave up and turned the light off, after ascertaining that "Let go" was a sentence she knew well!

We had a fun time, including "Be Nice To The Dog" lessons, a shower followed by running through the house naked while is chased her, and intransigent demands for more and yet more bananas. She's becoming a little person with ideas of her own, and is experiencing some of the frustration of the fabled "terrible twos". Vivian has a lot to say and it's not always possible for me to understand her. Jumping up and down and screaming next to the bananas was pretty easy to figure out, though.
With only two weeks to go until vacation it's all Grand Canyon all the time around here. Now in addition to the basic list of equipment and a rough schedule of activities we've got the grocery list ready to be filled.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Rocky Mountain Sighs

This year I visited Colorado in April. Some may say it was an effort to drag my birthday celebration over as many miles and days as possible, but I say I was just trying to bring some moisture to the Mile High City. And incidentally get more cake. The rain started halfway across Kansas and continued for the first two days of my visit. A lot of Colorado got huge amounts of wet, heavy snow, but Brighton only saw a few inches of the white stuff.

By the time I left temperatures were in the eighties - whatever I pack for Denver in the spring I always wish I had brought more of something else. You could get a good idea of my priorities these days by checking our what I put into the car for a week's visit. My clothes took up one carry on bag. The dog's luggage took up about the same space. Then there was the "stuff". Huge quantities of stuff. Three knitting projects, two cameras (I forgot the memory card for my big camera - that's another issue altogether, but as it happened I did not take many pictures) Two books - and my mother always has masses of books around. Chargers for everything, of course. Two books on CD, freshly reloaded IPod, music CD's. Car snacks, Starbucks' cup. Apparently I though I was headed off into The Wild for a month.

I had my usual good visit. Richard and I went to the movies, to Starbucks, Target, and to his PT. It's easy to see why he's enjoying his therapy. In addition the good results he's getting, the clinic is staffed with some very cute young therapists. Very motivating indeed!

Mom and I went to Target, Starbucks, and the local yarn store. Mom's plan was to get in some walking to kick off her spring walking program, so one day we walked downtown to check our Deer Pants, a recently opened fiber arts store in downtown Brighton. We met the owner and she was good enough to show us around and demonstrate the wonders of a knitting machine. She's so personable, knowledgeable and friendly. I'll definitely add her store to my yearly plans. The store is really attractive, with exposed brick walls and a loft.

Since we had already had our yarn crawl in Brighton, Mom and I drove up to Golden for a visit to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum . Golden was socked in with snow on Saturday, but by Tuesday there was not a speck to be seen. The quilt museum is rather small, just two galleries. As it turned out, it was just the right size for us. The quilts were so beautiful and so detailed that had there been more of them we'd have worn out our brains examining them. With a small number to see we could really appreciate the beauty and detail of each one. I had been hoping they would have some modern quilts on display. The ones they were showing the week we stopped in were very traditional, but I still enjoyed them very much. There was a little museum store just crammed with yummy things for us to resist. And resist we did. I had never been to Golden other than to tour the Coors Beer plant, so I was happy to visit downtown Golden. Mom and I enjoyed strolling around eating ice cream and window shopping.