Monthly Archives: July 2010

Day 8 – PEI or Bust – Oklahoma City to Hot Springs, Arkansas

Check out the full post here. It has taken awhile to post all of these blog entries from our trip and I wanted to leave them in order for my readers.

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Day 7 – A Long Time Coming

A link to the actual posting is here. Even with extensive notes from our trip, it takes a long time to draft and edit them into coherent blog entries – not to mention find pictures to upload. So, that is what February 2011 will be for…

Day 6 – PEI or Bust – Bandelier and Albuquerque

Day 6
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We didn’t get started this morning until about 9 am, which was a little later than I anticipated given the boys’ proclivity for having to go to the bathroom right before we get into the car… We ended up staying in White Rock which is near Los Alamos labs and about 8 miles outside Bandelier. We drove back past the closed campgound down into Bandelier, which was spectacular just after sunrise. When we arrived, it wasn’t crowded at all. I guess we found the secret to a pleasant experience at busy National Parks – get there when it opens. We picked up the Junior Ranger booklets and headed out.

Bandelier was totally awesome – to use an overused 80’s phrase from high school. There was a whole ruin that was round village with many rooms, big, small and a few enormous rooms that were used for ceremonial purposes. It was a beautiful day with clear skies and not too hot to start out (that came later). The essence of Bandelier was the three story high caves carved into the walls of the canyon. Some of them were set up so that we could climb into them. All of them were darkened from smoke. It’s amazing to me that more people didn’t die from smoke inhalation with that set up. We saw many more petroglyphs than we did on the limited “open” trails in Petroglyph National Monument. The boys had to design and draw a petroglyph of their own as part of the Jr. Ranger program – it s interesting to see what they came up with. Bryce, of course, drew his lobber logo.

It was on this part of the trip that we found out that McKinley was afraid of big bugs. We went to sit down to fill out part of the Jr. Ranger booklet and Jasper said “Ohh, look at that giant bug!” I don’t think I’ve seen McKinley move so fast before. He was like a shot out of a cannon! That discovery started an entire day of bug stories and hoaxes. My favorite was when we were almost done with the hike and we found a shady area to finish the booklets and McKinley was about to sit down on a bench when Bryce said – “don’t sit on that big bug!” McKinley jumped about 5 feet in the air to miss the (imaginary) bug. That incident started a chase scene which lasted the remainder of the hike…

The volunteer docent who checked the boys Jr. Ranger booklets was very thorough and kind. He must have been a teacher before he retired. He went through each page and each activity and then asked the boys his own set of questions. He sat side by side with each boy in turn before giving them their badge and administering the Jr. Ranger Oath. It was vary sweet. Once finished, the boys could check out the gift shop, which was a big hit.

We headed out of Bandelier and Los Alamos Nat’l Labs back to Santa Fe to find the Peruvian Connection and Coach stores. (I had done a little shopping reconnaisance before we left Sedona because I didn’t want to miss the Peruvian Connection outlet this time driving across country like what happened in 2001 when I drove across country with my brother). We discovered that Santa Fe traffic is crazy! On this El Camino like road, drivers would stop in the middle of the lane for no reason. Or they couldn’t figure out where they were or where they needed to turn, so they would just stop to take a look. A driver stopped on the merging lane to the freeway, no reason, just stopped. Made me never want to drive there again!

We finally found the Coach outlet (which we should have stayed on the freeway to find instead of driving through town, but we learned that afterwards.) I went there because I had a 40% off coupon. Fortunately, the Coach outlet had 20% off your entire purchase promotion going on that week… How can you go wrong with that? Jasper’s quote of the day, “Who would pay $150 for a purse?” followed shortly by Bryce, who said, “Mom, you have enough purses!” silly boys… You can never have enough purses…
They got a lesson in bargain hunting today- 40% off plus an extra 20% off. I had them do the math. They still like Nordstrom Rack better!

Next stop- the Peruvian Connection to check out their amazing sweaters! I have always loved the Peruvian Connection catalog – beautiful sweaters, mostly hand made, mostly pain in the butt kind of knitting with many colors, complicated patterns, etc. All stuff I could knit, but their prices are crazy – who wants to pay $400 for a sweater they can knit? But an outlet – that sounded interesting. So, I went to Santa Fe specifically for the purpose of seeing the Peruvian Connection Outlet. It was worth it – I tried on tons of sweaters which was fun because you can’t do that in a catalog… I found a few Christmas presents and one very fun sweater for me. The boys were great during all of this exploration. I had to separate McKinley from the other two boys and then they all spent their time playing games on their iPods/iPhones. Finally, mom was done touching everything and we could head to lunch.

We asked for a restaurant recommendation and the shop ladies suggested Tomasitas for lunch. It was near the Railroad station a couple of blocks away. Holy cow – that’s a lot of food!!! They served huge portions of everything on giant platters. I didn’t think the boys would eat it all but somehow most of it ended up being inhaled. We took a lot of mine with us to eat later. Today we discovered that Jasper doesn’t like Mexican food – who orders fried shrimp and french fries at a Mexican restaurant?

After lunch we headed back to the Peruvian Connection to get a present for Grandma Lee. We went to the market shops that looked like they must have been built in an old railroad station – nothing interesting so we decided to go find a few art galleries. We headed to Canyon Road to see all of the art galleries. This swanky area looked a lot like Carmel, CA with adobe type buildings instead of California Bungalows. Who knew that Bryce and McKinley wanted to see sculptures. Well, I think we spent the next 4 hours looking at EVERY scultpure in the 3 block radius where we parked. Once we started looking at art and got them off of looking at the price of each piece, they were very observant and creative with their own ideas about the art. McKinley called it the Fine Arts Block. Bryce loved the outdoor scultpures that were wind and movement oriented.

Once the galleries closed, we headed back to Albuquerque. We needed to put McKinley on a plane back to the Bay Area for Webelos camp so we found a hotel by the airport and then went to find dinner. I had put a list together of places visit or eat at before we left. On that list was the Frontier Restaurant which was across the street from University of New Mexico. (I found the recommendation in Sunset magazine). It was a huge college hangout with great food for cheap – $21 for 4 of us. That kind of pricing is hard to find if you have moved beyond fast food (which so far have avoided like the plague – no McDonald’s). I tried the frontier burrito with green chili stew on top. It was huge and I had to have help to even make a dent in it. The burrito was very tasty and the stew that was poured over the top had potatoes in it, which was a surprise. Jasper had a burger (in a Mexican restaurant…). The other part of the Sunset recommendation said the reason to go there was for the giant cinnamon rolls – so we may go back for breakfast and the famed cinnamon rolls.

We went back to the hotel and packed a bag with stuff to return with McKinley. We sent the 15 movies back with McKinley because the boys had watched them all by then (I’m still talking to myself on the drive because they have their headsets on to watch the movies.) I sent all of the National Park T-Shirts and gifts back with McKinley and anything else that we wouldn’t need on the rest of our trip.

Once we finished packing a bag for him and rearranging all of the other “stuff” and decided who was sleeping in what bed, I read a little before noticing that McKinley was sound asleep just as he laid down in bed. A day well spent!

License plates for the day:
Manitoba KY AL OH

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Day 5 – PEI or Bust – Bandalier & Santa Fe

Day 5
56332 odo ~9:00 am
We are close to the visitor center at  the El Morro National Monument, which is where we camped last night. I woke up early (very early) this morning because our tent site was right where the sun peaked over the hills. I got dressed and ate breakfast quickly and then went to take pictures. At first everything looked green and desert like, but the closer I looked and the slower I walked, the more intersting things I saw. It turns out that there were some amazing flowers on my walk. I really enjoyed the peace and quiet while taking pictures.

I finally roused the kids out of their sleeping bags – they weren’t at all intersted in getting up… once up, they played soccer with the basketball sized tennis ball found in Tobey’s car, until it got stuck on the roof of the camp bathroom. Then we spent a few minutes engineering a solution to get the ball off the roof. The campground looked fairly new (or maybe never used that much) and our tent site had a 16×16 box of mini pebbles. It wasn’t too bad sleeping on that becuase the pebbles were like sand and shifted with you. Although, I did keep waking up in the middle of the night to make sure that all of the stars were still there. Once I got some food in the boys we went over to the visitor center to check out El Morro.

We picked up our Jr. Ranger booklets and then explored the natural spring and the giant bluff. We had an awesome hike around and on top of the bluff. The hike took us past the natural watering hole that drew so many people here in the 1700s and 1800s.  The carvings on the wall were intersting – people took the time to engrave their names, and sometimes they even added a saying, on the high cliff walls — Governors, priests, a few women, and many others. I think the kids were most surprised about the water that had gathered on top of the bluff in naturally formed bathtub-like holes. The Indians actually used them as tubs. On top of the bluff were more Indian ruins and a round Kiva. This hike reminded me of the one around Devil’s Tower in Wyoming when we drove across country the other direction in 2007.

Once we were done with our hike in the 100 degree heat, we went on to El Malpais. It was a huge geological section of volcanic activity. We explored the visitor center and had a picnic lunch that included a cherry pit spitting contest – not necessarily how far – just at each other — Started by Bryce and McKinley… We passed the continental divide and in the process of turning around to get a picture of it, ran over a chip munk. That was very sad.

We should have gone back and visited the ice cave, but, the boys weren’t that interested in exploring the craters (the closest one was El Catron) and I wasn’t that interested in backtracking. The Park Rangers, who were very sweet, recommended it and said it was very worth it. The park rangers were two young guys who laughed that their big Metropolis was Gallup and we had already been nonplussed with that town. We were looking forward to Albuquerque, which they did consider to be their big metropolis.

On the drive to Albuquerque we passed more desert with dust devils and large dust clouds like we had seen on the way to/from Canyon de Chelly. I saw a sign that said “Sheep enforced by radar” and I wondered what the heck that meant. I saw another sign a few minutes later and it said “speed checked by radar”…OK, that made more sense. I guess the heat is making me hallucinate now. There was another sign in that seciton that said “Zero visibility possible use extreme caution.” I guess they were serious about the dust/sand storms. Given the dust driving out of Canyon de Chelly, I can understand how there would easily be zero visibility, which is not something I want to drive in! I hadn’t done that since a crazy road trip to Wazzu my freshman year of college.

We passed some areas of extreme poverty – lots of dirt roads leading to trailer parks with plywood and sheet metal lean-tos. We saw one trailer that had a trampoline next to it and my first thought was – is that how they get on the roof? It was odd to see it shoved up against the side of the house. Most of the roads off the highway were dirt. We went through the Sandia Nation and the Zuni Nation on our drive today.

We stopped at the Petroglyphs National Monument and were very disappointed. One section was closed and they had three hikes of varying lengths still open – 90 minutes, 30 minutes and 15 minutes. On a couple of the hikes there were very few petroglyphs. We saw more petroglyphs on other hikes on other parts of this trip! Even though their open hiking areas were a disappointment, their visitor center was very nice and had a really great display set up on how all parts of the desert were used for food, shelter and making clothing. They also had red chili bunches hanging everywhere to dry. The boys liked those. It was so very hot this day and walking on black rocks to see the petroglyphs just made us hotter, and they were already irritated that they were having to do a third Jr. Ranger program that day – what a mean mommy!

While we were waiting for McKinley to get out of the bathroom, we explored the Navajo cake that I had picked up the day before. It was in corn husks and was kind of like a tamale when we opened it. It was similar to cornbread and had molasses and raisins in it. It was crusty around the edges and was very tasty. I wish we had picked up more than one. When we were leaving Petroglyphs, we saw our first Mormon caravan with four white mini vans and cube carriers on top. I wondered where they were headed.

Desparately, I used my favorite app (and the only app I used over the 4 states so far) which was my startbuck’s finder. We located one nearby and got something cold to drink and tried to cool off. We also had to get some poison ivy/oak cream to put on Bryce’s arm; what was originally thought to be heat rash in the crook of his elbow erupted down his arm into something more so I figured the Ivyrest (or whatever it was called) would be useful. I also found some neon purple fingernail polish for me and some $3.99 movies for the boys. They were pleasantly surprised that they got new movies, but disappointed that one of them was Hairspray. Given their disaapointment over the movies, I took the opportunity on this quiet lull in the drive to play one of the many books I had put on our iPod – aI chose a Beverly Cleary book to start with. That worked until the next stop and then the new movies won out. More on the iPod books later!

Albuquerque definitely looked like a sprawling metropolis compared to the cites we had been through so far on our drive. We were headed up to Bandelier to camp that night. Skirting around the center of town we headed up to Santa Fe and then over to Bandalier. Road construction was everywhere in the city and then when we were on the outskirts of town, we entered the Sandia Nation and there were no longer houses, but only desert and a huge casino appeared. Once we past the enormous casino and vast parking lots, there was nothing but desert. It was amazing to see the stark contrast of city and desert where the Indian nation started. It was nothing but desert and even that looked deserted.

The Indian nations fascinated me and I wondered how they functioned. I wondered why there were three lanes of freeway only near the casinos, not actually in the approaching freeway section going into/out of Santa Fe or Albuquerque where they would have been very useful. I also felt geographically challenged every time I kept seeing signs that said Santa Fe 35 miles, Las Vegas 39 miles. I couldn’t figure out how I ended up so far off course. It wasn’t until about the 5th time I had seen these signs, and my panic was growing strong enough to consider pulling over and looking at a map, that I remembered Bryce making a joke with the Park Rangers at El Malpais about going to Las Vegas (New Mexico). Then, I relaxed.

We bypassed Santa Fe to head out to Los Alamos which is what Bandelier is closest to. More Indian nations, and the Santa Fe Opera – what an amazing building that was, even from the freeway. We ended up at Bandelier at 6:30 pm hoping to still find a camping spot. Unfortunately, the entire campground was closed from June to August for renovations. Who closes their campground at the height of camping season?

So we backtracked a little to White Rock and stayed at a Hampton Inn where all of the scientists and engineers visiting Los Alamos stay. We went to the only visible restaurant in town and had interesting pizza. We played air hockey and pool (apparently, we all need help learning how to play pool, except Jasper who intuitively knows where to hit the ball to get it to go where he wants). After dinner, we played cards and all the kids took baths/showers (which they badly needed after the heat today). After cutting the kids nails, I painted my nails with that neon purple polish I found earlier today and it indeed was a very bright neon! We weren’t able to finish our Phase 10 game before having to go to bed. The boys complained that I had the light on to read before I went to sleep, but they all fell asleep with the light on anyway!

State License Plates:


Things of Interest we saw today: – on the back of two snazzy horse trailers
Yellow car that matched the yellow New Mexico license plate
An all white  billboard with a man going in head first that said – Wear your seat belt (quite an effective ad, I thought)

Day 4 – PEI or Bust – Heading to New Mexico

Day 4 – Heading to New Mexico by way of Northern Arizona
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We left  Sedona to head East to New Mexico and I was hoping to stay at Chaco Culture National Historic Park tonight (the map said there is camping there or close by…). I don’t usually like to back-track when I am driving but we ended up doing that to go back up 89 to get to US 40 and Flagstaff rather than going out through Sedona back to 17 N. Within in a few miles we ran into traffic that was completely stopped. There was a huge crowd at Slide Rock State Park which opened up at 9 am that morning. Slide Rock is a natural water slide in the side of the hill. They had blocked off entry into the park from our side of the road so people were going up and doing a u-turn at the end of the waiting traffic which just meant that our side stopped too. After making our way through that, it was smooth sailing up to Flagstaff and across the desert. But, it’s never a good sign when you start seeing signs for Road Work Ahead. And it’s definitely not a good sign when it says “Road Work for next 74 miles!”

One thing that struck me funny about our adventure in Arizona and in Sedona in particular was the use of roundabouts in Arizona. I’ve driven in Europe and England where roundabouts are used effectively. The roundabouts we encountered in Arizona were not effective, they confused people and made every bit of entering stop. Why not just put in a 4-way stop if that was your goal? The roundabouts in Europe are very effective for the traffic going straight (kind of a touch and go with the roundabout) and the circle is wide so that you can merge and not run into anyone. But the ones in Arizona had a huge middle with one lane around the whole circle, meaning everyone had to stop, circle slowly and then find the road that they wanted. What a complete waste of money in making those “improvements.”

We filled up in Winslow, Arizona. 56036 odo. We had to take a picture of the Winslow sign for our friend and colleague, Winslow Chapman. The boys got to drive in the back of his truck when we visited him in Florida at Thanksgiving so they think the world of him. Taking pictures from the backseat proved challenging sometimes but after a bit, Jasper and Bryce figured out how to put the camera on no flash which worked better with the windows up.

At this point we turned north to go to Canyon de Chelly (doesn’t rhyme with Jelly, but is pronounced like Shay, who knew). The green part of the map turned out to be the Navajo Nation with no road signs except for occasional hand-painted stakes, pointing random directions. Somewhere after a stop for a bathroom break for the boys, I started to second guess my choice of roads and felt slightly panicky about getting out of there and back onto a major freeway.  It was eerie to see so many state parks closed (some for repairs, some just closed). Two of them were Homolovi Ruins St Park and Jerome State Park (back down by Sedona. The painted desert was spectacular in its vibrant colors. I hadn’t planned to take any dirt roads but that’s what was on the map between us and Canyon de Chelly. Thankfully, the road I ended up on never turned to dirt. We passed several churches of different religions, one school, and one small store. If you needed milk, you had better have a cow, otherwise, you are driving for quite awhile to get it. I guess you don’t make unnecessary trips into town living in the Navajo Nation. The specific road into Canyon de Chelly was very dusty and there were tons of dust devils and dirt clouds everywhere and in one part tons of sand drifting across the road. I truly felt like I was in the middle of nowhere!

Once we arrived, we chose to take the South Rim drive and stop at all the lookouts. Some were amazing – the White House stop looked like a post card with a fake diorama. Tons of hawks flying around to make you pay attention to the edge of the canyon! The boys finished the Jr. Ranger program (which was one of the only ones so far to make them gather a bag of trash along the way) with a little bit of whining and some lunch. Some of the views from the lookouts reminded me of what Angels Landing at Zion looked like – 360 degree views from a point that was isolated in the middle of the canyon and was only accessible by a trail that seemed only passable by billy goats. Stunning views. Indians were at every stop trying to sell beaded jewelry – nothing that interesting. Seemed like stuff form china rather than true Indian works of art. I guess they have to make a living some how. I wish I had snapped a picture of one of them. One other thing that surprised me here was that someone had planted peach trees in the area many, many years ago  – there was one in front of the Visitor’s Center.

We were advised that if we were going to Chaco that it was only accessible by dirt roads and there were two ways in – from the North on a 13-mile dirt road and from the South on a 21-mile dirt road. If we had gone North, I would have wanted to stop at 4 corners. I decided it was going to be too close to dark by the time we got there to want to be on dirt roads, even if we were in an SUV. So, we went back down the road we came in on and went to the next main paved road and stopped at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site.

One thing I love about the National Park system is that you never know what you are going to find – of course, in places like Yosemite and Yellowstone you expect to see brilliant geological formations and natural beauty; but then you stop at some of the slightly out-of-the-way National Monuments and you get into the more interesting stuff.

Hubbell was definitely interesting. It is the oldest, continuously operated trading post in the US. The Jr. Ranger program was one of the better ones because it asked what if questions as well as the historical time line kinds of questions, along with word puzzles. In the museum/book store, I couldn’t pull McKinley away from the weaving loom, so I decided to go back in the trading post to look at the Navajo rugs. I thought I would find him one for his birthday to give him an example of what weaving looks like when finished. I looked at rugs and most of them were $250-300, but then I found one that had a really nice, quilting like pattern in back, white and red ( no browns or grays) and of course it was $1,295. Not what I was expecting, at all… Needless to say, I am still on a quest to find one for him.

The kids were mostly fascinated by the root cellar being built underground for food storage in the winter. While there, we discovered two new things about the Jr. Ranger program here – one, they gave out a flat piece of 11 x17 paper that turned into a Jr. Ranger hat – we hadn’t seen those in all of the years we have been doing these programs. The other thing they had at the counter was a banner in the shape of a ranger badge for kids to pin their ranger badges on. I solved that problem years ago when I made felt banners that looked more like a family crest for the kids to put their badges and pins on. But it was nice to see that the NP was making one available more generally.

When we decided to leave, Jasper decided he had to go to the bathroom, so the other two got to peruse the trading post for a bit longer and get some gum and candy. I bought a Navajo Cake (having no idea what it was, but wanting to try something native to the area). I couldn’t believe that the Hubbell trading post had Brown Sheep yarn for $3.75 a skein. Not that I needed more yarn (I had already brought two knitting projects with me) – but that was a good deal.

Continuing on to the next National Monuments and trying to find the camping site to stay the night was next on the agenda. We headed over to Gallup, New Mexico. The road quality improved significantly once we exited the Navajo Nation and the number of pick-up trucks diminished too. A few miles alter we left Arizona behind and entered New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.I have always thought that was a bold statement to put on your license plate. Who’s doing the enchanting and what is so enchanting about New Mexico? We were about to find out…

Gallup was a complete bust unless you were trying to buy fireworks at a significant discount (today was after all, July 4th and there was a high likelihood that they would be used immediately). The kids, of course, lobbied to buy real fireworks not the smoke bombs we had tried a few summers ago in the midwest. Recalling the thumbnail that had been blown off by an M-80 when I was about 10 years old and the aftermath, I declined to buy any fireworks.

At this point the sun was sinking and I wanted to get to the camp site before it was dark. I really don’t like picking camp sites in the dark, so I try to avoid having to do that. I wanted to have a quick dinner, fill up and go find a camp site. But the only thing that was open in town was fast food places. We end up stopping at Sonic drive-in – ugh, greasy, fried food… the kids loved what they ordered (which included ice cream) and I loved the onion rings which tasted very sweet like they had been dipped in cookie dough batter rather than the usual breading. My Dr. Pepper tasted suspiciously like Diet Coke, so I avoided that and tossed it at the first opportunity.

The last stop before filling up was to find a grocery store and get the ingredients for s’mores and stuff for breakfast. Finally some fresh fruit – cherries and grapes, as well. I drove out of the grocery store parking lot looking for a gas station between there and the freeway and it turns out I drove right past the only one; another u-turn in the same spot we had done one to get to the grocery store – now Gallup is really starting to bug me. The first part that bugged me was that the two places I tried to go for dinner were closed. Making fast food the only quick option.

At the gas station, it was Bryce’s turn to help out. Once we had the gas pumping, we cleaned the windows and tossed trash from the back seat. While I was cleaning up, a very weathered old Indian man in a plaid shirt, jeans, and a cowboy hat came up to ask asking for help in words we couldn’t hear or understand. We declined and he returned to a shade tree next to the gas station with two others just like him. Then we had a long talk about hobos – my kids are obsessed with hobos. They aren’t homeless, or down on their luck to the kids; they are hobos. I think they just like to say the word.

We continued on to El Morro to find a camp ground before it was completely dark. More Indian nation roads, very few signs, I keep hoping I am going in the right direction because the GPS isn’t that much more detailed in the Indian Nation. We passed many run down, abandoned places. I pointed out a bunch but the kids weren’t listening – they were onto what ever movie was next in their queue.  Bryce did disconnect long-enough to take pictures of the sunset. We found El Morro and turned in to see what it was all about and find teh campground – there were no signs to indicate camping. After driving a short way in, there was a sign to the campground. Only 12 spots and only 5 people there – we had many choices – we chose close to the bathroom so the kids didn’t have to wander far. We drove around twice and picked a spot next to a guy with a campfire going  and a guitar (we knew we would have to make friends to cook our s’mores because we didn’t have a place to put the firewood in our very full truck).

We put our tarp and sleeping bags out and got clothes for the next day and stuffed them in our bags to keep warm. It was decidedly chilly there after the sun went down and had lots of bugs. They were especially attracted to me and Jasper and the s’mores. We joined Bob and Debbie next to us for Sangria (bonus) and s’mores. They treated us to a mini-concert on the guitar. Bob also played the harmonica and Debbie played the flute. It was very relaxing and peaceful watching the stars come out and singing. We heard many sounds that night including fireworks. The sign coming in had an additional sign on it today “No Fireworks.” So, we didn’t actually get to see any fireworks on the 4th but we could hear them far away in Gallup.

One of the things I wanted to do on the drive across the country is introduce the kids to some classics – classic poetry, classical music, and classic books. The music and books were loaded onto a designated family iPod. But with their movies, I haven’t been able to command enough attention to put on a book or music. But I had brought an actual book to read at bedtime – the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. After everyone was snuggled into their sleeping bags, under the millions of stars, I started to read about Huck Finn – only this really giant bug that pursued us at the fire with our s’mores was really attracted to the light. So, our book reading ended when that giant, very loud bug flew up under my collar and with me writhing around to get it out of my shirt… The head lamp was extinguished and we looked for shooting stars instead.

License Plates:

NH, IA (not many new ones today)

Interesting Things we spotted today:
Babbitt Tank Wash
Buffalo Range Road
Photo Enforcement Zone – not sure what this was, no explanation was provided; was it for speed?
Two Guns (town name)
Trucker Flat Wash – the kids were fascinated by the dry rivers; I just liked their crazy names.
Bread Springs

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Day 3 – PEI or Bust – Exploring Sedona

Day 3
55863 odo Sedona 8:45 am
Today we saw two really interesting National Monuments – one of them was new to the boys – Tuzigoot NM and one we had seen before in 2003 –  Montezuma’s Castle NM. The boys did the Jr. Ranger Program at both of them, learning about the history of the area, a little about the wild life and the plants.

Before going to Tuzigoot, we took a small detour to visit the town of Jerome, which is an artist colony formerly known as a ghost town. It was a fascinating town built into a hillside. It was a former mining town that was mostly abandoned until a few years ago when artists started going there and congregating. Now there is a hotel, many art galleries, a ton of shops and some rebuilding going on. What always amazed me was that the houses went right up to the road. If anyone sneezed, they might end up driving onto someone’s front porch. We didn’t end up shopping there but we should have stopped to see some of the sculptures and jewelry. I drove through there a few years ago when I took the scenic route through the mountains and forest from Phoenix to get to Sedona. I ended up stopping at a jewelry store and buying a piece with an opal and amethyst from a store run by a mother and son from the Bay Area.

Tuzigoot (pronounced differently by dfferent people, but pronounced with a whoot sound instead of a hard G goot sound by the park ranger) was a very interesting but small Indian ruin on the spine of a hill – it wasn’t really big enough to be called a mountain. There were many, many small rooms that people lived and worked in. It was evident by how it was built that it must have been a vibrant community hunting in the surrounding valley, going to the nearby river to gather water and fish, and celebrating in the giant round Kiva (basically a round ceremonial building). The backside of the mountain was the trash pit and they excavated many, many things from that pit/hillside. We lost BRyce briefly after we went to the top of a structure that had been redone. He went left and we went right. We waited at the car for him and were getting a little panicky (or at least I was; Jasper wanted to leave Bryce there) and just decided to go back on the trial to look for him when he showed up, very angry, wondering where the heck we were… always have a plan in case someone gets lost 🙂

We took a little side trip to Dairy Queen (the only repeatedly visited fast food place on our trip besides Starbuck’s – thankfully, we haven’t been to McDonald’s on this trip!) I think Jasper’s favorite place is Diary Queen – he said San Carlos would be perfect if it had an In ‘N’ Out Burger (which we are supposed to get soon, and a Dairy Queen. The only one I know of anywhere near the Bay Area is in Redwood City and it is a little run down and questionable… I sent the kids into Dairy Queen with a $20 and trekked over to Starbuck’s to get a Chai tea even though it was only 99 degrees outside today. It turns out that everyone in town was there – the line was 20 people long. I went back to DQ to fish the kids out of there and then proceeded to go to the Drive-Thru at Starbuck’s 🙂

Next we headed over to Montezuma’s Castle which is an amazing cliff dwelling. We had originally visited it when we came to Phoenix for a Bowl Game in 2003. In fact, the picture we took in front of the river was what we used for our Christmas card that year. The river was dry now and it was very hot there. We talked to a friendly older woman who was one of the docents there and she was very helpful in finishing the Jr. Ranger program. McKinley refused to write in his Jr. Ranger booklet so he had an oral exam along with two other girls from South Carolina who had come back to turn their books in. One of the great questions the Ranger asked the kids was what Park would they want to work at if they were a ranger. Jasper answered Hawaii Volcanoes (which apparently is the most popular park to work at); Bryce answered Bryce Canyon and McKinley didn’t answer but we answered Denali (where Mt. McKinley is) for him 🙂 After checking their books thoroughly, the Ranger made the kids all stand together in front of a beautiful picture of the park and she had them raise their right hand and swear the Jr. Ranger Oath in front of everyone! “I, state your name…” It was cute.

We were going to go back up to Walnut Canyon to explore that National Monument in more detail but I thought the kids could benefit form more swimming in the hotel pool and I had to be back for a 5 pm appointment for my hot rock massage. I didn’t want to miss that. I didn’t think I could drive the hour up to Walnut Canyon, explore, and get back in time. So we had fun in the pool. I actually put a suit on and McKinley announces to the world (and this would be a time when you don’t want your kids to listen too closely to things you exclaim) “Mommy looks scary in a bikini…” Lovely  having children, isn’t it???

After a ton of swimming and splashing other pool guests with cannon balls and jack knives, we had a discussion on what it means to be a guest at a resort hotel – something like children should be seen and not heard????  I think that point was lost on the boys. Getting the kids out of the pool even for ice cream proved trying and took 20 minutes. After changing, we walked up to town and found yummy ice cream from a  shop that makes their own. I had malted vanilla which was wonderful. McKinley had Oreo which he promptly dropped off his sugar cone as we crossed the street. A mini tantrum ensued, ending with him eating my ice cream. I went shoe shopping instead. Found awesome red sandles and these sequined type slippers in blue. Always a silver lining…

When we got back to the hotel, I was going to take a yoga class before my hot rock massage; unfortunately I missed yoga because the room was locked. I guess they are serious about starting on time. Not very yogi like… The boys watched a movie “you don’t mess with a zohan” while I had a massage even though they were lobbying to watch this unrated Will Farrell movie, which didn’t sound like a good idea at all to me. The steam room was fantastic and the hissing steam scared the bejeesus out of me when it first came on. I jumped a mile – good thing there wasn’t anyone else in the room with me – they would have seen me almost touch the ceiling when I jumped. I felt really ironed out after the hot rock massage and several inches taller. Now if I could figure out how to get that feeling to last for weeks…

We had dinner at the Cowboy Club, which was a little touristy, but had good food and was very busy that night. I made the boys try rattlesnake, buffalo, sweet chili pepper sauce, prickly pear cactus fries, and prickly pear salsa with red and blue corn chips. Jasper thought the rattlesnake tasted like chicken. Bryce thought the sweet chili pepper sauce was too spicy and McKinley loved the prickly pear cactus fries (which were my favorite too). Thankfully, there was a warm breeze which made it really pleasant to eat outside that evening. I had a pulled pork sandwich that came with the pulled pork in its own mini-iron skillet – it was fantastic! Jasper had a buffalo burger which he loved. McKinley had a grilled cheese sandwich using Texas Toast, so he had a hard time fitting it in his mouth! It was a fun day that started with exploration and ended with great food!

Day 2 – PEI or Bust: Bakersfield to Sedona

Day 2 started with a trip to Starbucks for Chai tea (in my case) and carmel apple spice for Jasper and Bryce and Superfood for McKinley. Then we went over to target to get a new bra that won’t poke me while driving and a few other things we forgot or knew that we would get on the road. The boys chose to stay in the car and continue watching the video that they were enthralled with. Once done with our errands we went and met Greg’s mom for breakfast. Good thing it was only an hour, that’s all I can stand. Is it terrible to not want to see your mother in law?

55362 odo
When we finally got on the road, it was 11:47 am. We had to stop at Schwab to deposit a check that I completely forgot to deposit before we left and then we tried to find an orthodontist (using Yelp, which was woefully out of date in the orthodontist category) because Jasper forgot the package of rubber bands for his braces. No luck finding one open. Rubber bands will have to wait until Jasper heads home for boy scout camp. We also stopped at the Orawheat outlet to get some bread and other fixins – we keep a cooler in the back so we don’t have to eat fast food when we are ready for lunch. Bread was like a quarter of the supermarket price, which was a great deal. I did surprise the kids with donuts, which is unusual for me  – who needs to give sugar bombs to kids when you are cooped up in the car with them. I waited until our next stop and then surprised them.

We left Bakersfield and headed South East through the Mojave Desert, going over the Tehachapi Pass. That name sounds like To Hatch a Pea to me and has always amused me. Barstow was a really sad, run down town. We stopped for a few groceries at a Von’s. We finally made it outside of California and it is 4:14 pm as we cross into Arizona with 55645 odo. There were tons of semis with TN and ME license plates. I wonder if Tennessee and Maine have better road taxes or something that makes them a better place for licensing semi trailers (kind of like Delaware friendly corporations law begets a ton of Delaware corporations).

Mostly a boring drive through the desert. Thankfully, I figured out how to get the cruise control to work (so now I can exercise both legs). It was really hot out when we stopped in Barstow. Fed tehboys PB&J for lunch and then later we stopped for ice cream in Kingman, AZ. We had home made root beer floats at Mr. D’z. While we were there, we overheard a snippet of conversation: – “she’s pregnant and has cancer; everyone’ s allowed a breakdown…” Yes, we have definitely left the Bay Area. 55693 odo leaving Kingman and heading for Sedona. Today we experienced very hot temperatures – topping out at 109 degrees between Kingman and Flagstaff. The rootbeer floats and banana splits were tasty and just the thing to hit the spot in that heat!

I decided to show the kids Sedona, after years of traveling there for work. So I booked a hotel instead of camping (which was the original plan), and the kids got to experience the Amara Inn. I booked a hot rock massage for the next day. The kids mostly loved the hotel pool which was open until 10 pm every night. I actually put a suit bathing suit on (but didn’t go in the pool). We met a family from Los Gatos and all the kids has swimming races and played a ton of Marco Polo. I can’t believe how fast a swimmer Jasper is. That was a surprise to see. It was nice to cool off finally.

State License Plates:

IN, ME, TN, ID, IA, OR, WA, GA, Quebec, NC, ND, KS, NE, MN, OK, HI, IL, MO, KY, MS, TX, NM, UT, PA, Ontario, MT, NJ, OH, CO, MI, VA, SD,  British Columbia

Things of Interest We Saw Today:

A sign that said Dodgers fans don’t wave
Onions on the side of the road in a heap
Several trucks carrying loads of garlic
One truck carrying a load of oranges
Tons of Bicycle riders riding together over Tehachapi Pass – reminded me of Run4FUNds so we waved and sheered them on
More onions outside Needles…must have fallen off a truck
Happy Jack Toad
Flat Top Wash
Proving Ground Road
Old Trails Road
Black Rock Wash
Shinabump Rump
Rattlesnake Wash
Devil Dog Road
Bun Boy restaurant in Mohave

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2010 Cross Country Trip – PEI or Bust…

Day 1 – Leaving San Carlos

I wake up early this morning excited and needing to finish some work on our taxes, but first I  have to go to Vanilla Moon to get an apricot pistachio scone and then go to Starbuck’s to get a Chai tea to go with it. I really wanted to eat something for breakfast that I wouldn’t be able to get on the drive across country and our vacation time in Prince Edward Island, which is schedule for the next five weeks of our summer. I picked up an extra scone for the drive.

55055 on the odometer – left the house around 1 pm to do a few errands — like buy a bigger, faster memory card for the new camera (which writes faster so you can take more pictures in a row without having to wait for the camera to save the picture to memory), drop things off at the thrift store, grab some yogurt at Harmony, drop some things off at work so that they can be sent to our DC office for me to work on while the kids are at boy scout camp…, fill up the car, check the tire pressure, oil, etc. (Jasper can do this now, thankfully)…

Finally Left at 3:22 pm and the drive was good while the commute lane lasted through most of San Jose and almost to Gilroy. I started taking notes while we were stuck in traffic on 152 East – stopped dead in our tracks, no movement in sight on the two lane road… nowhere near a side road; nothing to do but wait. The boys were so quiet that I had to look back to make sure they were still there. Yep – they were still there and looking quite catatonic. They were just enthralled with the DVD player – Once he found out Tobey’s car had a DVD player, I think Jasper went back in the house and  picked out 15-20 DVDs to play on the drive.  I didn’t hear a peep from them until we reached Visalia. Which meant most of the time, I was talking to myself. Hmmm, this may be a longer drive than I thought…

When traffic finally started moving, which was just after a lovely section of roasted garlic smell, I was passed by a semi-truck sized garbage truck going uphill on 152 because there were soo many poky mini-vans in the passing lane it was maddening!!! There were 4 wrecks between that section and getting to I-5 which made me want to take side roads and avoid the freeway. If I knew that section better, I would have taken side roads. We hurried up and left on Thursday because I didn’t want to be driving down Central California on a Friday before a holiday weekend. I was right to do that,  but some of those crazy holiday drivers left on Thursday. I hate it when you encounter drivers who won’t go a smidge over 65, but won’t get out of your way until you try to pass on the right and then they’ll go 90 to prevent you from passing them. At this point I start to wonder why I wore a bra with underwires – are they going to poke me the entire way to the east coast? Note to self – find a better bra to wear in the morning.

Gotta figure our how cruise control works on this SUV because all of these leg lifts on my left side only can’t be good…Going 92 and passing no one (oops, I meant 82). After going what seemed like halfway across the state on 152 E and then turning South on 99, I finally spotted a sign that said “Visalia 29 miles” hooray! Closer to seeing Dad and Paula for dinner. At this point the movie was over and Bryce started whining that his stomach hurt (which is code for “I am really hungry” or “I have to poop.”). Holy cow that kid can be persistent – I wonder where he gets that???
We finally found dad’s house (I love the maps app on my iPhone) and we drove right past dad because we were looking on the other side of the street… Kids immediately hop into the swimming pool and forget about being hungry. A little bit later we order pizza from Me & Ed’s. Dad goes to get it and it becomes dark and we wonder what has become of him and the pizza. Turns out they gave our pizza away and had to make another one – so we ended up with two special meat pizzas – wow, put bacon on pizza and watch it disappear. Very, very tasty! (There was so much pizza that we got to eat it the next day too!) It was really nice to finally see dad and Paula at their house since they moved back to California. Now on to Bakersfield – what a destination. We stayed at a ratty motel 6 that night… Note to self – find a newer hotel to stay at next time…

License Plates seen today: (we have a special laminated map to keep track of the states with a dry erase marker)


Other things of interest spotted along the drive:

Seen in los banos: Jesus Christ came to save sinners
San Joaquin Valley Hay Growers Association building
Near firebaugh everything smelled like broccoli
Passed a load of sweet corn
Jostens Printing & Publishing
Sequoia National Park 39 miles (once we left Visalia)

I Wonder:

What is a food grade carrier and why is it driving down the road? Is it milk? Something else good? Chocolate?
How wide is a wide load? Is it the same width as my butt?
Why I decided to drive across country with a 12 year old in puberty?
Who the marketing genius is who named the company real good solar even if it was 1978 when it happened. Turns out it is Real Goods Solar (but I guess I could see the second s as I passed their company car going down the freeway). Not that it makes a difference in the bad company name.

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