Day Thirty – Monday, September 19, 2016

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I’m going to tell you a little secret. Over the last 30 days of our trip, Susie and I have become snobs! Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true, we like nice hotels! The Hampton Inn and Suites we were in last night is the kind of hotel that has spoiled us for the hotel we are in tonight! If you remember back a couple of weeks ago, we re-did a number of hotel reservations after a disastrous Rodeway Inn. Rodeways and Econo Lodges went bye-bye, and were replaced with Comfort Suites, Hampton Inns and Best Westerns. The one exception to that, is the hotel we are in tonight and tomorrow night, the Econo Lodge of Santa Fe, New Mexico. When we looked at the reviews for the hotel they were good, and when you consider that the two nights here are less than one night at last night’s Hampton Inn, it seemed like a no brainer. But, now we are here. Yes, the room is fine and the hotel is in a good location, but we are on the second floor and there is no elevator. There are very few lights in the room, no charging ports, and there is but one ice machine, which is also on the first floor (remember, no elevator). Not a bad hotel, but as I said up top, we have become snobs! Based on this, we just changed our accommodations in Roswell from a Rodeway Inn to a Comfort Suites…neither are run by aliens (and I mean the kind from other worlds)…we don’t think!

Today our target area was north of Santa Fe, the city of Los Alamos, New Mexico. If you remember your World War II history, you will recognize that as the home of the Manhattan Project, where they developed the atom bomb. One of our main reasons for traveling there today was the personal relationship it has to Susie. You see, during World War II, Susie’s Mom worked as a clerk typist for the government in the Woolworth Building in New York City. It was only after the bombs were dropped on Japan, that they all found out that they were working in the New York office of the Manhattan Project. She has a letter and a pin, thanking her for her service to the country, so we really wanted to see this place.

Our main stop of the day was the Bradbury Science Museum of Los Alamos. They have an extensive display about the Manhattan Project, and the continuing work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, including two movies. We enjoyed the displays about the Manhattan Project, especially the real history displays of folks who worked there during the war. Some were scientists, some military personnel, and some were just young woman who were looking to do their part for the war effort. One young lady was a clerk typist, like Susie’s Mom, and like Susie’s Mom, knew nothing of what they were doing. Her quote was, “When asked what was being made here, the answer was, “We’re making windshield wipers for submarines.” I really had no idea what was going on here till after the bomb went off at Hiroshima.” It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours and to get a better idea of what the Manhattan Project was, how it all really came about, and the controversies.

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On our way back to Santa Fe, we made another stop, one that I remembered from my childhood trip to California. You see, in 1960 when my Mom, Dad and I traveled across the country, we did so after my Mom and Dad finished the Cincinnati Summer Opera season. At that time, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where they were both members of the chorus, did nothing during the summer months, so members were in demand for various summer opera seasons around the country. 1960 was the first of five years my folks worked at the Cincinnati Summer Opera, and on our trip, we visited Santa Fe to see some of my folks’ fellow Met members who were working at the Santa Fe Summer Opera. On our way back from Los Alamos on US 285, there was an exit labeled Santa Fe Opera, and I had to see if it was anything like I remembered. To say that the Santa Fe that I remembered from 56 years ago is different than the current Santa Fe, would be a severe understatement. I have pictures in my mind that do not correlate with the large city Santa Fe is in 2016, and the Santa Fe Opera is no different. Turns out that since it started in 1957, there have been three Opera Houses, all at the same location, so this one dating from the 1990s would have not been one I might remember. We took the ride anyway before heading to the hotel.

Tomorrow our emphasis will be on Santa Fe, which is the second oldest city in the United States. The only one older is St Augustine, Florida, which we visited three years ago, even if all we remember is the Tini Martini Bar next to the Hilton Hotel!!

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At 7000 feet, Santa Fe is also the highest State Capital in the United States, and the model name of our son Kenny’s Hyundai! See, we have a lot of personal connections to New Mexico!

Have a good night…we will!

Day Twenty Nine – Sunday September 18, 2016

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After having breakfast at the Hampton Inn in Gallup, New Mexico this morning, we took care of a couple of tasks before we headed off on our way. The Sonata needed gas, and a car wash was in order too. So, after we took care of those tasks, we headed out of town. Our destination for tonight was Albuquerque, not a lot of milage today, so we had some time to explore. We decided to take a shot at Route 66 again, but this time New Mexico style!

According to Google Maps, Route 66 ran alongside Interstate 40 in Gallup, so we bypass Interstate 40, and of course went down a street that went nowhere! Unlike our original taste of Route 66 in Arizona, New Mexico doesn’t really seem to care if you find it or not! Eventually we did, and you can see from the pictures below, we did find some evidence of a different time.

We continued to follow Route 66 for some way out of town, till it dumped us on Interstate 40. At this point, we had no choice but to join the Interstate. But at several exits on the Interstate we found signs like the following, and stupidly followed them off the exit!

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I say stupidly, because there was no evidence of Route 66 once we exited the Interstate. My cousins Jeanne and Walt traveled Route 66 this past spring, and in his blog (https://adventure2016web.wordpress.com/author/adventure2016web/) Walt said that sometimes finding Route 66 took a bit of detective work. I know what he means. Twice we followed these signs off the Interstate, and the only evidence we found of Route 66 was a casino!

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At one point, getting off the Interstate we didn’t find Route 66, but we did find a Walgreens, and stopped and picked up a couple of necessary items. Susie thinks she’s getting a cold, so being safe rather than sorry, she picked up some cough syrup just in case. As she was driving at this point, she took one more try at finding Route 66, and as she said, “Third time’s a charm.” We actually found a sign directing us to Route 66, and after turning, were rewarded with a Route 66 sign!! Hallelujah!!! Of course, by this time, we were just outside Albuquerque, but we were rewarded with some neat sights.

After exploring Route 66, we turned our attention to Old Town Albuquerque, and explored some there. At that point, we’d had enough “Detective Work” for the day, and headed to our hotel. We are in a Hampton Inn and Suites tonight, and have a room that justifies the Suites part of their name!

Tonight we are going to do something really different. We’re going to the movies! There is a 24 screen movie theater just a couple of blocks from the hotel, and at 5:30 we’re going to see a movie both of us have wanted to see since we first saw the ads..SULLY. Then in honor of today being National Cheeseburger Day, we are going to do something we haven’t done for years! We’re going to Fuddruckers ! Fudds was a go-to place for the D’Elias when the kids were smaller, but since the one next to Eisenhower Park closed years ago, we haven’t been to one. And that’s what day 29 was like….

See you tomorrow!!

PS – 8:01 PM, Mountain Daylight Savings Time

The movie was wonderful!  If you haven’t seen Sully, Susie and I encourage you to go see it!  It was a little strange watching all this New York action, from a theater in New Mexico, but it’s a great movie!

And the burgers…well Fuddruckers does not disappoint!!!  Happy Cheeseburger Day!

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Day Twenty Eight – Saturday, September 17, 2016

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First, a milestone. We have officially been on the road for four weeks, having left Mineola on Sunday August 21, 2016. That’s 4 weeks of hotels, four weeks of restaurant meals, four weeks of roadside attractions, four weeks of National Parks, four weeks of unforgettable sights, and four weeks, during which the two of us have spent every minute, of every hour, of every day of the four weeks together! The big news is that we are (A) still enjoying it and (B) still talking!!

There was another sunrise today, as we set our alarm for 6:30 AM, so that we could be up to see the sun come up over the other worldly Monument Valley! Thankfully, unlike the Grand Canyon, The Navajo Reservation follows Daylight Savings Time, so sunrise was an hour later at 7:05 today. Also, since all we had to do was step out on our private terrace, we didn’t have to get up, get dressed, and travel anywhere to see this amazing sight. As you can see in the attached pictures, it was indeed a great show. The sky first started to lighten, then a little hint of the sun comes up, and really not that slowly, the sun really makes it’s presence known! All this and the buttes, the mesas, and the mittens of Monument Valley made for the best sunrise we have seen on this trip. A word however, about sunrises in general. I told Susie that this is the last time I get up in the middle of the night, to see the sun rise over ANYTHING on this trip! This is an alarm free zone!

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Our Tour Vehicle

This morning we had a 9AM Back Country tour of Monument Valley scheduled with the Navajo Spirit Tour Company. So after sunrise, we got ourselves together, packed up, and checked out of the room. We met our guide, Will Cowboy (his real name) and the rest of our tour group in the parking lot, and after he told us a little about himself, we were on our way. I chose the Navajo Spirit Tour Company because this is a cooperative group, made up of Navajo people who conduct tours of this valley that they call home. Will’s family traces it’s roots back many generations in the valley, and he told us that his 109 year old Grandfather was born atop one of the Monument Valley buttes! This man was the real thing, and the information he gave us, the stories he told, and the sights he showed us on our tour proved that 100%.

The tour starts off on the same 17 miles off road loop of the valley anyone can do with their own car (no thanks), but then Will was able to take us into back country areas where only the Navajo people are allowed to go. One stop was at a demonstration village, where we watched a Navajo woman working wool and then making yarn out of it. Then Will explained the many different tools around the hogan (the traditional Navajo home), and the ways they made the various colors in the rugs. He also told us about how a Navajo man and woman got together, and many of the customs of his people. It was not only fascinating but also very educational.

Our next stop was incredible. It was a cave with a hole in the top (used in an Indiana Jones movie) that had the most incredible acoustics. Will had us lay against the wall, and showed us the different patterns in the rock, that made it look like a Navajo warrior, an Eagle, and even George Washington! Then he treated us to two traditional Navajo songs that he sung, accompanying himself with a traditional drum. What a really wonderful experience! Unfortunately, after this stop, we’d run out of time, and we had to get back. The 3 hour tour went fast as we stopped at many interesting places, saw beautiful sights up close, and learned a little about Monument Valley and the Navajo people!

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A couple of notes about the tour. At several of the places we stopped, local people had set up shops, displaying their wares. Will explained that these were people who lived in Monument Valley, and the items they sold were indeed Navajo made, unlike some of the items sold in the commercial gift shops, and every dollar you spent, actually went to a Navajo resident of Monument Valley. You remember Susie’s $1100 necklace from yesterday’s blog? Well, I am happy to tell you that Susie left Monument Valley with her Navajo jewelry. Three necklaces and three bracelets for the fabulous total of $77! Now that’s a good deal that puts the $$ in the right pocket! (And Will told us that the jewelry in the Gift shop comes from South of the Border…not the Navajos!)

Also, if you remember back several weeks to our tour of the Mormon’s Temple Square in Salt Lake City, you may remember the “know it all” tour member from Pittsburg. Well, today on our tour, we met his cousin from Tennessee, who tried to correct Will when we he was telling us where his people came from! Unbelievable!

We had a wonderful time on the Navaho Reservation in Monument Valley. If you ever get to this area of the country, Susie and I cannot recommend enough that you splurge and stay in the View Hotel in Monument Valley. The staff, the accommodations, the restaurant, and especially the view, are a once in a lifetime experience. We also have nothing but great things to say about Navajo Spirit Tours Back Country Tour, and if you are lucky enough to get Will Cowboy as your tour guide, you are indeed lucky enough!

However, all our Navajo Reservation dealings, were not as excellent as our Monument Valley experience. As we headed towards the New Mexico border today, Susie wanted to stop at the Four Corners Monument. This is allegedly on the spot where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. I said “allegedly” because Susie has read that this is not the exact spot where the 4 states meet. We really didn’t know that much about it, but it was only a slight detour, so off we went.

In our opinion, this was the exact opposite of the Monument Valley experience, in that this was a complete ripoff! First, we paid $10 to get it. Then we discovered that there is just a little concrete circle depicting the 4 states, but that it is surrounded by stalls selling things! In our opinion, this was nothing more than a bate and switch situation. We took a couple of pictures and left! If we were there 10 minutes, it was a long time!

Tonight we are in a Hampton Inn and Suites in Gallup, New Mexico. It was Susie’s plan to do laundry when we got to the hotel, and she was thrilled to find out that the guest laundry facility was just 3 doors down the hall from our 4th floor room. I was thrilled to find out that the ice machine was just next door to the laundry, making all our needs very convenient.

Speaking of convenient, the hotel shares a parking lot with a Comfort Inn and Suites and a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Susie was just saying today that she’s surprised at how few restaurants like Cracker Barrel, and Perkins we’ve seen the last 4 weeks. Since it was just steps away from the hotel, we took the “no-brainer” opportunity to walk over, and we had a very nice dinner. They have really great string beans by the way. Since this was the first meal we’d eaten today (we had some cheese crackers, Twizlers, and Swedish Fish in the car), we appreciated everything!

We realized today that the last time we were on an Interstate, was last Wednesday afternoon, on the way to the Grand Canyon, when Route 66 dumped us on I-40. It’s been only small roads since then, and virtually in the middle of nowhere. Since we left the Grand Canyon, till just before we got to Gallup, we were on the Navajo Reservation, so there was very few built-up areas. Tomorrow, we head towards Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Interstate 40 will again come into our plans.

See you then!

Day Twenty Seven – Friday September 16, 2017

Monument Valley

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The above picture is my work space for tonight…our private terrace at The View Hotel, in Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Park. We are in room 213, overlooking the legendary valley where great John Ford movies such as Stagecoach were filmed. The monument Valley Tribal Park is over 91,000 acres of the of the over 29,000 mile Navajo Reservation. It’s a place that John Wayne called, “God’s Treasure”. Were we not on the Navajo Reservation, we would be just on the Arizona side of the Utah/Arizona border, in the Northeastern corner of the state.

We woke this morning in our Grand Canyon Cabin a little after 6:15, having hit the hay very early last night. If you remember yesterday’s post, we were up early for sunrise, then took the tour, and explored the rim trail, before heading back to the cabin. We had early cocktails last night on the rim, before heading into the Bright Angel Restaurant for dinner about 5:30. To be totally honest, we were pooped! Between not having a great night’s sleep, getting up early for sunrise, taking the tour, and then walking the trail when we got back, we were ready for an early night. We watched a little TV, worked on editing some pictures, and about 9:30 we headed to bed!

So after checking out, we headed towards the Eastern Entrance of the park. That took us on the Desert View Drive, and after stopping at several view points that we had not previously visited, and taking some more pictures, we exited the park.

Almost as soon as we exited the Grand Canyon National Park, we were on the Navajo Reservation. We expected the same kind of built up area we’d seen going into the Canyon via the South Entrance on Wednesday (multiple hotels, fast food restaurants, etc), but coming out of the East Entrance, there was none of that. It was a very desolate road, and we drove probably 50 miles before saw our first gas station. We really didn’t need much gas, but figuring I didn’t know what was ahead, I topped off the tank. At the same time, we stopped in a brand new Burger King and had a couple of Chicken Sandwiches.

It was early when we got to the entrance of the Navajo Tribal Park, so we kept going on US 163 for 13 miles, to check out something I’d read about online. If you remember the movie Forest Gump, you remember the scene where after running around the country, he suddenly decides he has done enough, and stops. That scene was filmed at mile marker 13, on the Utah side on US 163, and we took the trip to see what it looked like. Unfortunately, they were doing road construction, and there are highway cones all over the road, but we did the best we could. Take a look at some of our first views of Monument Valley.

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Then we headed back to Monument Valley, and checked into The View Hotel. To be able to sit here and overlook this incredible sight is just mind boggling. We have seen this view in so many great movies over the years, and to be sitting on this terrace looking out at them is unbelievable! We are looking forward to sunset tonight, and what the changing rays do to this magical valley!

We just had dinner in The View Restaurant, and then went back to the Trading Post, where Susie earlier had briefly looked at some Navajo jewelry. They had a sign on the counter that there was 40% off marked price, and as guests at The View Hotel, we got another 10% off, and had a $20 gift certificate. The lady helped Susie pick out a necklace and earring set that she liked, and then went to work with her calculator. I swear, she must have done computations for close to 2 minutes, before she turned the calculator to Susie and said, “this is what it would come out to be”. $1096 is what the calculator said, Susie said she’d have to think about it, which meant she wasn’t getting a Navajo necklace! Oh well, perhaps on Ebay!

It’s quiet and still now, as we sit on our terrace and wait for the sun to set at 7:25, and see how it changes the face of the valley. The $258 the room cost for the night, was well worth it for this view of the valley. We are both looking forward to tonight’s sunset, followed by the full moon rising over the valley, tomorrow’s sunrise, and then our Navajo Spirit Back Country Tour. Right now, we are looking at the last of the folks self driving their cars on the 17 mile unpaved Valley Tour Road. After the Sonata has faithfully taken us close to 6,000 miles already, and probably has 3,000 or more to go till we get back to Long Island, there was no way we were going to subject her to that. No, we will let the professional Navaho guide take us tomorrow. We may be dirty when we’re done, but the Sonata will leave the valley in one piece!

I’ll finish today’s blog with some pictures of the sunset and hopefully the moonrise, and give you a full report in tomorrow’s blog about our morning tour!

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Day Twenty Six – Thursday September 15, 2016

 

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Something different today. As I write this, it is a little after 7:30 AM, Mountain Standard time, and we have been up a little over 2 hours. The alarm was set for 5:30 this AM, so that we could get up and out to the rim of the Grand Canyon in time to catch today’s sunrise at 6:11 AM. It was a good show!! It was quiet, almost reverent, and everyone who was out for the sunrise was speaking in a whisper. Slowly, as the sun rose in the eastern sky, the color and light patterns on the canyon changed. Even though sunrise was 6:11, it was after 6:30 before we saw the actual sun come over El Tovar (the hotel next door), and had to put on our sun glasses. Slowly but surely, the rays of the sun started to play on the canyon until it was in full sunshine. I read that you needed to be out there about a half hour before till about a half hour after sunrise to appreciate the changing colors. Now we have officially seen sunset and sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Can I sleep till 7 tomorrow?

A little after 6:30 AM, we decided to head into the Bright Angel Lodge and have some breakfast. For some reason, Susie and I both felt like pancakes and bacon, and that’s what we ordered. When our breakfast came, the pancakes were beautiful, and looked like something prepared for a photo shoot, rather than a real breakfast! They were beautiful, but they were HUGE!! Had we known they were going to be this “substantial”, we could have split an order! Susie only made it through a third of the stack, and while I did a little bit better, neither of us belong to the clean plate club!

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Full beyond belief, we headed back to our cabin, to relax for an hour or so, before the tour we booked for this morning that leaves at 9 AM. Of course, we inserted the digital key into the lock and instead of getting the green LED and an open lock, we got the red and yellow LEDs, and no opening! After trying it for 5 or 6 times, we had to head back to the registration desk in the Bright Angel Lodge, which we had just passed on our way out of breakfast! Oh well, a little more exercise I guess!

 

Welcome to afternoon in the Grand Canyon National Park! It’s a little after noon, and we are back from our morning tour. We took the 2 hour guided Hermits Rest tour, in part because from March 1st to November 30, private vehicles are not allowed in this section of the canyon. Also, every time we have taken one of these tours in the parks, it has been a good experience and we have learned more than we knew before we took the tour. Today’s was not the exception to that rule!

We met our driver/tour guide JD just after 9 AM, right outside the Bright Angel Lodge. There was Susie and I and another couple, and we figured the bus would make a stop at another hotel, before starting the tour. Nope…we were it! Did we luck out!

Rather than just drop us off at the various view points, and tell us we had 15 minutes, JD came with us and gave us a private tour. He described what we were seeing, pointed out things we would have never seen without his guidance, and gave us history, geology, meteorology, and gossip about the Grand Canyon. At every one of the three stops we made, he had something new to share with us, and boy did we see and learn a lot in the 2 plus hours we were in his care. Questions were asked and answered, discussions were held, and it was a great experience, and well worth the $30 each we paid. You could tell that JD was passionate about his subject. Just like Leslie, our driver/tour guide on the Yellow Bus Tour we took in Yellowstone, JD had studied the Grand Canyon. He knew the history, knew the ecology, knew the science, and knew the new, and sometimes yet to be proved theories about how this natural wonder came to be.

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After getting dropped off at the lodge, we went into the Bright Angel History Room, and looked at the many displays. The Grand Canyon, like many other National Parks, was originally developed as a tourist destination by the Santa Fe Railroad. Included in the displays, was a lot of information about someone who worked with the Santa Fe, and who was very involved in the early development of the Grand Canyon, Fred Harvey. Fred Harvey, who’s dining business was closely tied to the railroad, was the original concessionaire at the Grand Canyon, and was responsible for the construction and running of the hotels and restaurants servicing the park. You may have heard the term Harvey Girls, or seen the 1940s era Judy Garland movie of the same name (a favorite of Susie’s). Well Harvey Girls was what the women who worked in Fred Harvey’s restaurants were called, including those at the Grand Canyon. In fact, we found out from our tour guide JD, that the present concessionaire Xanterra took over the businesses in the Grand Canyon from the Fred Harvey Company.

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Since we’d had that huge stack of pancakes for breakfast, lunch was out of the question, but we stopped at the Bright Angel Soda fountain for a soda and a snack (Susie had an ice cream cone and I a pretzel), before heading back to our cabin. As I’m writing this, Susie is reading one of the books she has bought in the last two days. This one is called, Death in the Canyon, and includes a lot of historical information about some of the really stupid things humans have done in this beautiful place, over the years. I’m also going to go get a couple of maps out of the car and plan our exit from the park tomorrow and plot our trip to Monument Valley.

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Yesterday you saw the inside, here’s the outside of our GCNP home!

This afternoon we are going to do some more exploring around the area, and perhaps try a little of the Bright Angel Trail, and follow the advice of JD to see a couple of very interesting Grand Canyon sights!

And another advisory, seems we’ve lucked out here, with some usable, if slow, internet service, but no guarantees for our night at the View Hotel on the Navaho Indian Reservation. If you don’t see a Day 27 blog tomorrow, never fear, I will get it published when I can!

Day Twenty Five – Wednesday September 14, 2016

 

Surprise, surprise…it looks like there is limited internet access in Grand Canyon. I’m going to attempt to post a blog for today, but not sure if pictures will post.

We started this morning at the Best Western in Kingman, Arizona, and our plan was to follow as much of Route 66 as we could, heading to our eventual stop for the night, Grand Canyon National Park. In our opinion, the parts of Route 66 that we traveled yesterday were much more of what we expected. Today’s travel was dull and boring, with very little remnants of Route 66 establishments that failed. Unlike yesterday’s travels through mountain passes, the majority of today’s travel was straight as an arrow. Honestly, when we got to the point where Route 66 joined with Interstate 40, we were happy.

We traveled Interstate 40 to Williams, Arizona, and then headed north towards the South Entrance of GCNP. Just outside the entrance to the park, is the National Geographic IMAX Theater, which presents Grand Canyon, The Hidden Secrets. We’d read about the 35 minute movie, and it sounded good, so we stopped to check it out. Lots of incredible photography, and a couple of interesting stories about early Grand Canyon explorers.

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Then it was on to the main attraction, Grand Canyon. Only a few cars in front of us at the main gate, and an easy entrance using my Senior Pass, and we were on our way. About 4 miles from the entrance gate, we followed signs to the Visitor Center and Mather Point, so Susie could get her first glimpse of the Grand Canyon. I’d seen it once before as a 10 year old, but it’s 56 years older than it was back then, so perhaps it had changed. Well, I’ll tell you one thing that changed is the amount of crowds we encountered! The parking lot was practically full, and there were people everywhere walking! Speaking about the crowds, we feel like strangers in our own country, because 90% of the people we’ve encountered are foreign tourists! English, Mexican, Danish, German, Swedish, and oh God, every Asian person who is old enough to travel! I guess they are all aware of the natural beauty our country has!

We walked, and walked, and walked, and finally Susie had her first sight of the rim of the canyon, and said, “Oh My God!” You may have seen pictures of this place, but they just can’t compare to being here in the flesh! After a few dozen pictures, we got back into the car to head to our ultimate destination, a Bright Angel Lodge Cabin, just feet from the rim!

We managed to find a parking spot, not too far from Bright Angel Lodge, and check in was very simple. We were given a key and a map showing us where our cabin was located. Luckily, we parked close, and soon were in our little cabin. It’s now about quarter to six, and the day visitors are clearing out and hopefully, those of us staying in the park will be in the majority. The temperature is only around 70, and there is a pretty good breeze blowing, so we are thinking of changing into our long pants and wearing our sweat shirts. Our plan is to make a drink, and walk out to “our rim” and sit and sip, as we watch the canyon and wait for sunset! It should be a little after 6 PM tonight, Mountain Standard time, and what I’ve read is that you want to be observing the canyon for a half an hour before and after the time of sunset. Wish us luck!!

Well, sunset was definitely everything it was cracked up to be! Just to explain, you don’t see the sun setting over the canyon. What happens is that as the sun slowly sinks to the west, it changes the way the canyon looks. The sun makes some parts bright red, while other parts go into deep shadow. Cocktails and sunset on the canyon rim definitely worked out well! A couple of vodkas on the rocks (with a twist) made it easy to sit on the rim wall, watch both the sunset and the passing parade of tourists, and enjoy a great view! That it’s just a short walk from our cabin made it even better!!

Then it was off to the Arizona Room for a bottle of wine, and a delightful dinner! Stopped briefly in the gift shop, and actually bought something! A book for Susie and a hat for me. We have been thru many gift shops on this trip, but have restrained ourselves. Now, some relaxing, and to bed early. Bed Early because we need to be up at 5:30 or so, to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Yea, we know it’s nuts, but when are we going to get to do this again???

Night you all…see you tomorrow!

Day Twenty Four – Tuesday September 13, 2016

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This morning, we checked out of the Rio Hotel a little after 10 AM, said goodbye to Las Vegas after our 3 day stay, and got back to our “on the road” routine, which we were both looking forward to. We realized as we as we left Las Vegas, that today we did something on our way out of town that we have never done before…we drove by the Las Vegas Airport Rental Car Return facility!

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Yesterday I told you about visiting one of our favorite places, Red Rock Canyon, a place that has become a Vegas tradition for us. Well, this morning we made a slight detour to Boulder City so that we could have breakfast at what has become another Vegas tradition for us, The World Famous Coffee Cup Cafe! Ever since we first saw it on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, about 5 years ago, we have stopped every year for one breakfast. Located in Historic Downtown Boulder, the Coffee Cup is a favorites of locals, and they graciously let us tourists enjoy the food too! They have a huge breakfast menu, but the star of the menu on Triple D, and in our minds is the Pork Chili Verde. Susie had the Huevos Rancheros, which promptly features the Pork Chili Verde, and I had Papa con Chili Verde! We had planned to take food pictures, and have to apologize, but as soon as the waitress put the plates down in front of us, all we could think of was eating it! All we have for you is some pictures of the cafe!

After breakfast we headed south on US 95 towards Needles, California. Soon after getting on the road, we passed huge fields of high tension wires, bringing the power generated from Hoover Dam to the outside world.

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The trip through the rest of Nevada was easy and the road was a nice 4 lane divided highway. After about an hour, we crossed into California and suddenly the road went to a 2 lane country road. We were only in California for about 25 miles or so, but it was another state on our list.

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Our purpose of going to Needles was to meet up with Historic Route 66, and to get to spend a little bit of time on the Mother Road. Back when I was 10 years old in 1960, my Mom and Dad and I drove from the mid-west to California, the majority of which we did on Route 66. Being 10 years old, I only have fleeting memories of the trip, so I wanted to experience a little of what’s left of the historic road. My point of reference for this portion of the trip was a blog, https://adventure2016web.wordpress.com/author/adventure2016web/ , written by Walter Pratt. It’s a great day by day accounting of a trip on Route 66 from end to end, and it is the result of my cousins Jeanne and Walt’s trip this past spring. Thanks Walt for the guidance!

As I write this tonight, we are in Kingman, Arizona, and have done better than 50 miles on Route 66. For the first 20 miles from Topock, Arizona I think we might have passed 5 cars. This is a desolate section of the road, where you drive through washes that have obviously brought lots of mud to the road, because it looks like they plow mud here, in much the same way we plow snow at home! The next “town” along the way was Oatman, Arizona, which seems to be known for burros and tourists wandering on the main street, which is Route 66. We had to dodge the jackasses…and the burros!

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Then it was time to head into the “mountains”, where a switchback two lane takes you into the Hualapai Mountains and over Sitgreaves Pass. All along the way, we saw evidence of businesses that once existed on the road, but when Interstate 40 opened, and bypassed them, died. Some have been repurposed and still exist, others are just rubble or big empty lots.

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As I said, we are staying tonight in Kingman, Arizona, in a Best Western Hotel. Today we only drove 187 miles, but again we are not on a mission to reach a destination, but to enjoy getting there. Almost as soon as we got into Kingman, we stopped at the Kingman Visitors’ Center and Route 66 Museum. We spent over an hour touring the museum and watching a film about the parts of route 66 we have, and are going to travel on. It was interesting to hear their perspective on what Route 66 meant to the country, how it helped development in this part off the country, and ultimately destroyed many lives when it was delisted as a US Highway. Another nice small museum, that at $3 admission was definitely not a rip off, and was a worthwhile place to stop.

Tomorrow, we will head along Route 66 for as long as we can, until we get to Williams, Arizona, and then head north to our destination for the next two nights, Grand Canyon National Park. We will be spending two nights in a Bright Angel Lodge Rim Cabin, enjoying the sunset and sunrise over the canyon (which is just feet from our cabin), and seeing what is truly one of nature’s wonders. In that trip I talked about before, we did stop at Grand Canyon, but all I have is a 10 year old’s memories of our visit. Susie has never been, and the two of us are very excited to check off this Bucket List stop on our Big Adventure! Susie just looked at the weather, and tomorrow night in the Grand Canyon it’s going to be in the 30s and 40s…a big difference from the 101 it was in Vegas yesterday!!  Also, the state of Arizona is the one state that doesn’t observe Daylight Savings time.  Right now, we are in Mountain Standard time, which works out to be the same time as Pacific Daylight Savings time.  Because of this, it got dark tonight very early!  Cool temps and early sunsets….we may have to dig out our Pikes Peak Summit clothes at the Grand Canyon!

Speaking of the Grand Canyon, an advisory for all of you who are following along with us via this blog. If you remember back 2 weeks ago, when we were in Yellowstone and there were no posts because there was little or no internet, I fear the same situation will probably exist in Grand Canyon National Park. So, if you do not see a post for day 25 tomorrow, understand that I will be writing the blogs, but may not get to publish them. After Grand Canyon, our next stop is the View Hotel, in Monument Valley, on the Navaho Reservation. The same situation may exist there too, so please understand if there is a “data dump”, once we are back in the 21st Century on Saturday the17th!

PS – We followed our usual pattern tonight, and dined at a local Kingman establishment. We found this book on our table…are they trying to tell us something???

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Day Twenty Three – Monday September 12, 2016

The above are views from our room on the 35th Floor of the Rio hotel, that we woke up to this morning. It was a mixed bag day, with us running here there and everywhere to take care of some things. First it was the AAA for some additional maps. Then a Citibank branch so we could take some cash out, as all our other withdrawals have been via cash machines on the weekend. Next a stop at an Albertsons, to renew our supply of happy juice, and a stop at a Wells Fargo ATM to withdraw some trip money. Once that was all done, the day was ours again!

Today we did one of our favorite things to do in Las Vegas, and something we have done virtually every time we’ve been here. We drove the 13 mile scenic loop in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. I think that about 16 or 17 years ago, on our first drive around Red Rock Canyon, was when we fell in love with this area. As I told you yesterday, we owned a house out here at one time, and I think it was a visit to Red Rock Canyon that made us think that we’d like to retire here, and the original reason we bought the house was to get into the Vegas real estate market. Times have changed, as have our thoughts on retirement, but not our love of Red Rock Canyon. Honestly, in all the incredible places we’ve been in the last 3 weeks, almost every time we have compared some aspect of it to Red Rock. There is something mystical about it to us, and real beauty that we think compares to the best the National Parks have to offer.

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Unfortunately, today was spoiled by the increasing familiar selfish folks that we have encountered in our travels. My absolute favorite place in Red Rock Canyon, happens about the 4th or 5th mile into the drive. At that point, you are about halfway back into the canyon, a little elevated, and the quiet and peace I feel in this spot, overlooking the canyon is just magical. But today, some bozo was sitting there in his car, with his motor running, so his air conditioning could be blowing at him, while he jabbered away on his cell phone! As the guy used to yell at Adam Sandler in the movie Happy Gilmore, “JACKASS!!!”

Maybe it’s us, but we see wanton selfishness everywhere lately. Everybody’s got to have their picture taken by the sign that says Old Faithful, or Yellowstone Park, or you are looking at some of the most beautiful things in nature, and have to dodge tourists with selfie sticks. Honestly, I think that the selfie is to blame for a lot of this attitude, as people seem to have a need to interject themselves in everything so they can take a picture of themselves. From ball parks, to National Parks, to the top of Pikes Peak, it is EVERYWHERE!!

Okay, enough ranting for now! So after Red Rock Canyon, we went over to the Red Rock Casino for lunch and then played for a bit, winning nothing! Then it was time to head over to CVS to pick up prescriptions. Once we got them, we ventured to Green Valley Ranch for our last visit there this trip.

As Susie and I were coming up to the room tonight, we both agreed that it will be good to get back on the road again, and our routine. Although we always love visiting Las Vegas, this trip was weird for us in several ways. First, this is a place that we know very well, and it was odd, in the middle of visiting new places and having new experiences, to be in such familiar surroundings. I said it was almost like we parked the car, and flew home for 3 days! Then it is just so different from what we have been doing and seeing for the last 3 weeks. Third, Susie won’t let me wear my denim shorts, which have been almost like a second skin to me! But the good news is she says I can ditch the golf shirt and khaki shorts, and get back to my t-shirt and denim shorts tomorrow! Yes, it’s been fun, but it will be good to get back to our familiar routine tomorrow!

Speaking about tomorrow, our plans are to head southwest in the morning, leaving Nevada and heading into a little corner of California. Needles is our way point and our purpose is to pick up old Route 66 for a little bit, as we travel east, out of California, into Arizona (and Mountain time again), on our way to the Grand Canyon. A night tomorrow along route 66 in Arizona, and then two nights in the Grand Canyon!

See you there!

Day Twenty Two – Sunday September 11, 2016

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We woke up this morning on the 35th floor of the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Looking at my watch, I thought it was 10:30 AM. I thought that was great, that we were already attuned to Pacific time! Then Susie pointed out to me that it was 7:30 not 10:30. I guess I blearily looked at my watch upside down, or something. Oh well, since we went to bed a little after 11 last night, it still was fine.

We putzed around this morning for a couple of hours, and then got our act in gear. The first order of business today was to get some errands done. First, we were off to CVS on Eastern Avenue. I had a couple of prescriptions that I was running out of, and Vegas was the first place we’d seen CVS Drug Stores on our trip. I had 3 prescriptions that needed to be refilled, but unfortunately they didn’t have enough of one of them to fill them today, so we have to go back tomorrow and pick them up.

After CVS, it was time to take care of the Sonata. We have driven over 5,000 miles since we’d had it serviced by Mike at C&S Automotive on Long Island, so we headed over to Terrible’s Quick Oil Change, just down the road from CVS. They changed the oil and filter, checked everything else, and sent us on our way, charging us $41.
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The reason we know about all these things that are on Eastern Avenue, just off Interstate 215, is that 12+ years ago, we bought a house in Las Vegas in the neighborhood. We picked out the lot, the model of house to be built on the lot, and then went to the design center to pick out appliances, paint colors, counter types, and cabinet finishes. The house took 3 months to build, and when it was finished, we slept in it exactly 3 nights, on a king sized Aero bed we shipped out to our real-estate broker/family friend. After those 3 nights, the house was rented, with the tenant paying all our costs. About a year after we bought it, the market in Las Vegas took off! It took 6 months to get the tenant out, and not too long after, we sold the house for a substantial profit. The reason we bought our house in Ocean City 11+ years ago was because of that substantial profit! We haven’t owned the house since the fall of 2004, but every time we go to Las Vegas, we stop by and take a look at 10423 Gwynns Falls Road.

By the time we finished checking out the house, it was lunch time, and we just so happen to know that there is an IN-N-OUT Burger on Eastern Avenue, so of course, we had to have IN-N OUT meal 2 of our trip.

Tasks out of the way, it was time for some fun, so off we went to one of our favorite casinos, Green Valley Ranch in Henderson. No big wins, but we had some fun!

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Once we got the car back from the valet, rather than head back to the Rio, we decided to head over to one of our other favorite casinos, Red Rock Casino in Summerlin.

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We were very disappointed because a Video Poker machine that we have played for years, and that we’d only ever found at Red Rock, and that there were only 2 of at Red Rock, was gone!! Oh no!!! We walked the entire casino looking to see if they had been moved, but found nothing! Damn! So, we played some other machines and again no big wins. We had a couple of martini’s at the Lucky Bar, but they didn’t bring us luck!

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Then we had a nice Italian Dinner at Salute Restaurant, and afterwords headed back to the Rio.

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It’s close to 11 PM here (almost 2 AM back at home), and once this blog is posted, it’s time for bed for us!

See you tomorrow!

Saturday September 10, 2016 – Day Twenty One

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Today we woke up in Kanab, Utah and tonight (or early tomorrow morning), we will be putting our heads down in Las Vegas, Nevada! Sorry that this blog is being posted really late, but I have two excuses. #1 is that we are now on Pacific time, so we are 3 hours earlier than our friends back on the East Coast. #2 is that we are in Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s it, nothing else!

We left our hotel in Kanab, Utah about 10 this morning, after rearranging the car because we were headed towards Las Vegas, and valet parking. If you remember, the other day, Susie rearranged the two small suitcases we have with us, so that all we had to do is bring one into the hotel in Vegas, along with our usual nightly items.

But first, before Las Vegas, it was time for us to visit Zion National Park, another park on my $10 Senior Pass. We realized that it was Saturday, and that more people might be in the park, but we were shocked by how many people seemed to be spending the day in Zion. Even though we entered before 11 AM, the park was jammed! Many of the View Points we passed were totally full, mainly because people were parked and hiking. We saw what we could, but really couldn’t see that much of the park. What we did see was pretty incredible, as we hope these pictures indicate!

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After leaving Zion, we headed to Interstate 15 South, heading towards Las Vegas. In short order, we left Utah again and entered Arizona. However, our route just went through the upper corner of Arizona, and in 26 miles, we were about to enter our third state of the day, Nevada. Of course, as soon as you enter Nevada, you also enter Pacific time, so the clocks go back an hour. When we pulled up in front of the Rio Hotel at 2 PM, it felt more like 3 for us. Right now it’s 10:30 PM here, but for us it’s 11:30, based on when when and where we got up this morning.

We’ve stayed many times at the Rio. Susie and I figured out this is probably the 17th or 18th time this has been our Vegas home. Always nice to show up in a place where you know where everything is, and how to get around!

The last time we were here was about a year and a half ago, and we discovered a new restaurant that wasn’t here last time we were. It turns out that there is a new Guy Fieri restaurant at the Rio, El Burro Borracho. As we are big Guy fans, and have enjoyed Guy’s Chop House at Bally’s Atlantic City, and also like Mexican food, we decided to try Guy’s take on the cuisine. It was great! We had incredible chips and salsa to start, followed by Guacamole with additions, and then we both had Enchiladas…Susie pork and me chicken! Great meal, including the two different drinks we had. First some tasty Sangria, followed by a couple of huge Jalapeno Margaritas! Yum all around!

Then we hit the casino. Played some slots, some video poker, and a little three card poker! No big wins, but we had some fun. Now, it’s time to hit the king side bed. Perhaps we will be better tomorrow, when we spend the whole day in Pacific time, but for now, nightie night!