Sunday, January 25, 2015

Thoughts on vacationing

Now, here's my first post vacation blog entry. I think that overall the vacation did both of us a lot of good and we did some fun things, ate too much rich food, and had a lot of time to talk to each other, which is always a plus. We were actually sad to come back to real life, and I'm having a hard time getting back into working...laziness breeds laziness.

On the other hand, I'd have much rather spent a lot more time hiking on my trip than driving. Driving is hard on Ann, but hiking is much harder. Because of the severity of her rheumatoid arthritis, she can't really hike at all, but she still enjoys seeing the beauty of nature. Long rides though are not good for her either. It's really best if we can get to a place where she can stay put, go out for short drives, have something to do when she sends me out to do my thing, and be comfortable. Cheap motels are generally not possible anymore, because the chairs just don't work. When we went to Kingman, Arizona last year, we ended up having to switch hotels after the first night because the one we had scheduled just didn't cut it for her comfort. Thank goodness that the original motel was willing to give us a refund. Ofcourse, I promised to give them a good review on Trip Advisor. On that trip we moved to a Best Western and it was plush, more expensive, but worth it to make sure she was okay.

We have another vacation scheduled down in southern Colorado in August and I'm hoping that their furniture is good enough that she can be comfortable. This usually requires an arm chair that has a high back, or a recliner that is higher off the ground than some of them are, so that she can get out of it if her knees are flaring up. I will check into this as far as possible before we go so that we can take measures to ensure she has something comfortable to sit in.

That's what we really have to look for in vacation planning now. If she's going to be miserable, it just isn't worth going, for her, or for me.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Day 9

Sometimes there are unexpected adventures in life. Day nine of our trip, our journey home, included one such journey. But first, we got up and kind of leisurely got ready to leave our motel in Kanab. We stayed at the Victorian Inn as I had mentioned in an earlier post, and when we left, our first stop was to go and collect some large slabs of sandstone for future use in yard decorating. I had collected two earlier in the week and Ann wanted two more, so we drove down into Arizona, past Freedonia, turning off highway 89A and onto highway 22, back to approximately where I had collected the previous slabs. We found a couple more and headed on our way. Our plan was to take a scenic route, up Johnson Canyon that we had driven up the previous day, and then take a 31 mile dirt road called Skutumpah Road. Skutumpah was rated a 1 on the easiness scale for dirt road travel, and that's as easy as it gets. Two-thirds of the way in, we were in for an unexpected surprise when suddenly the road was wet--mud, then snow and ice. It looked dangerous as the road rounded a hairpin turn and headed down a shelf, covered in snow. We didn't want to turn back at that point as that would add hours to our travel time. This part of the drive takes people into breathtaking vistas on mountainsides. On the downhill side of the road in many cases there was a foot-wide berm, also made of mud, that if we happened to slide into wasn't going to stop us from going off the edge. But in many cases, going to close to the uphill side would create a situation where we might slide into a ditch and get high centered. It was a bit nerve-wracking, especially once we were on the ice. Fun though. It's the kind of road that shows you what your vehicle and tires are made of, and if you have the skills necessary to complete the drive. What a rush!
The snow on the road got to be at least six inches deep in places. This photo shows a bit of the snow and mud.

This steep section included an ice flow. I nearly fell on my head trying to get to the back of the Yota to take the shot.

Once we negotiated the last ten miles, we were treated to vistas like this one:
Looking north from Stutumpah Road


The book had rated the scenic beauty as a 9 out of 10, but until we dared to drive that last third of the road, we didn't see anything like this. Since I'm writing this, we obviously made it. There were no further surprises on the trip, and we pulled into the driveway at around 6:45pm. All told, it was a pretty good trip.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Day 8

This was our last full day of our vacation. Tomorrow we will be heading home. We had decided to schedule an extra day in Kanab so that we could relax and do some things around that area that are fun and interesting to do. Ann wasn't feeling well in the morning so she said she'd be fine if I just took off and did some four-wheeling, which I did. I chose a route called John R. Flat Road, which was supposed to have a rating of 5 in difficulty if I started from the west, and if I started from the east it would be a 4. I decided to start from the east, and then if that went well, to try and climb the hill from the west--that had a 5 rating. Fives require high clearance four wheel drive vehicles, and usually have some rocks that are at least 9 inches high in the road that need to be negotiated. The rest of the road was driving through sand, so I had to take some air out of my tires. Though there were some nice views along the way (this route is near the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument), most of it was sandy roads through junipers.
Most of the way was a sandy road through sagebrush and junipers.
After driving through the sand for nine miles, with no problems, I finally got to the west end where the hard part was. Going down it was a piece of cake. There were two routes, both were supposed to be equally hard, but the route on the right looked easier, so I tried that first. There were some ledges, but I easily negotiated this road and made it to the bottom without trouble. I went back up the same route with no trouble. Then I decided to try the left route that looked tougher. It was tougher, with a couple of ledges that were pretty high that I needed to drop from, one right after the other. When I tried to go back up, I got stuck in the deep sand at the bottom of the ledges and had to back up. I found that I had accidentally shifted back into two-wheel drive. No wonder I bogged down! I shifted into low-range four-wheel drive, second gear, and made it up without a problem. I came down the same way once again. It sure was fun!
After that, Ann and I went to lunch, then went on a drive up Johnson Canyon Road, which skirted the western edge of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It was pretty along that edge for a few miles, and then we left the Monument area and were once again driving through junipers.
We went back, played backgammon (which we were both relearning because it had been years since we'd played), then I took a nap. We each had a salad for dinner.
When dinner was done, I went out into the darkness and experimented with taking some pics of the stars. Here is my best one:
That's it. I didn't have my best tripod, so I was wedging the camera with a jacket trying to get pics of the Milky Way. It didn't turn out as good as I'd hoped, but for my first real attempt, I was fairly pleased. They say also that the best time to take pics of the Milky Way is in the summer, because it "rises" in the wee hours of the morning in the winter. I will give it another try in the summer for sure.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Day 7...

It was time to be on the road and headed home. Since we had stayed up so late the night before, we got off to a late start and didn't leave Tom's until after nine. We had been seeing this little restaurant called "Hoosiers Cafe" and yesterday when Ann was going to Great Clips to get her hair cut, I noticed that Hoosiers had a sign that said "voted best breakfast in Mesa". I told Ann that we should try that on our way out of town and she agreed. So this morning we stopped there. It was as good as they claimed. I had the shrimp omelet and it came with fried potatoes and a biscuit with gravy. The omelet was amazing and came with fresh salsa. I gave it a 9 out of 10. The rest of the food was good too, and we ordered a couple of their cinnamon rolls for eating later on the road. I actually gave them lower marks at 5 out of 10.

We actually didn't get out on the road until almost 11 and our first stop would be at Jerome, which is a small mining town that has become an artsy, touristy, restauranty place. We had been there years ago with the kids and I wanted to see it again. I made the mistake of stopping in the museum...Ann stayed in the car and wrote in her journal. The museum had a $5 charge to get in and was pretty much a typical mining history museum. I would have enjoyed it if Ann would have felt like coming in, but as it was, I worried about her waiting outside the entire time I was in there, and so I just rushed through it, certainly not getting my five bucks worth. Another thing is, if you've seen one mining museum, you've pretty much seen them all, except the names of the mine owners change. For what it's worth, it's better to read up about a place you intend on visiting before you go, and then spend the extra time actually walking the streets. Ann couldn't walk the streets either, so I walked up and down both sides of the street, quickly, looking through windows, wishing I could spend more time--I think I could've spent at least three hours there--and then after I ran up a flight of thirty or so concrete stairs, bought some fudge and we headed out of town. I'll say this, Jerome is certainly worth a visit and I will try and go back some day.

We decided to take the route north that would take us through Sedona. We'd been through there years ago, but I had forgotten how beautiful it was. We stopped and took a few pictures and headed on our way. We would be stopping at Kanab for the night and knew that if we didn't get moving, we'd get to our motel after check-in hours were over. We made it at a little after nine to our motel, the Victorian Inn in Kanab. And finally, daily internet access!

Day 6...

On the sixth day of our vacation, we had a hang around Mesa kind of day. We got up late, ate some breakfast at the house where we were staying (cereal and toast for me). Then went out to do some book shopping. There's a new/used book store in Mesa called "Bookman's", and that's the first place we went. They not only had used books, but used cds, dvds, blu-ray, musical instruments, assorted knick knacks (including some wooden boxes) and various other things for sale. I ended up buying myself a book/dvd combo on learning to ski, and a jar of old marbles. Ann bought a few dodads and whatchamacallits and some alphabet books (she has well over 100 ABC books in her collections, and she's quite selective at this point).

We were ready for lunch at this point which was about 12:30 and with an early dinner date planned with Debi and Morris, we wanted to eat a bit lighter during the noon hour, and we did so. After lunch we headed to the Goodwill store and I ended up buying some little computer speakers for the laptop. We headed home after that as Ann wanted to change clothing and rest for a while. I fell asleep on the couch sitting up (I'd woken up in the middle of the night and been unable to sleep), and Ann talked with her brother Tom. At about 2:50 I woke up and said to Ann that if we were going to make the 4:00 appointment with Debi and Morris, we'd better head over to our final bookstore ASAP. We got going, Ann bought a few more alphabet books, I bought a krav maga book.

We were fifteen minutes late to Debi and Morris' house and we drove in separate vehicles to Oregano's, an Italian place that they highly recommended. The portions were large and the food was quite good. I got the garlic chicken lasagna and after the appetizer, salad, and garlic bread, I only ate half of it and took the rest back to our lodgings and threw it in the fridge. Before we went home, however, we visited with Debi, Morris, their daughter Alyson and Ann's mother, Rosalee. It was going to be our last night to visit, so we stayed until almost ten. We said our good-byes, I took a pic of Ann with her mom and we headed home. I stayed up reading, while Ann watched American Idol which she likes and which Tom had recorded for her. I think we actually got to bed at 12:45.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Day five...

Today we got up early and I took Ann to visit with her sister, Debi. Then my brother-in-law, Morris took off to the Superstition Mountains do a little driving around on his Ranger, up to a trailhead to a place called "Rogers Trough". This trail is an 8 mile round trip and leads to some cliff dwellings. It starts out by going downhill. We made good time and  got there around noon. Here are some pics of the area.

Shane at cliff dwelling in Rogers Canyon


Morris at cliff dwelling in Rogers Canyon
This sign was posted in front of the cliff dwellings
I tried to climb into the upper cave, but the way was slick and I had only my running shoes...I had not brought my hiking shoes because that would have necessitated me bringing four pairs of shoes on the trip. Little did I know that I would actually need the hiking shoes.

After viewing the caves and the dwellings, we ate lunch, then started the uphill hike back to the Ranger. It was tougher going up than coming down, but we made it. We drove back down to the trailer (passing by some of the coolest mountains ever, strewn with saguaro cacti), loaded up the Ranger, drove to town, showered and Debi and Morris went with me and Ann out to dinner to Casa Reynosa. It's a place that Debi and Morris frequent and is very good.

Day Four...

Day 4 (Monday): No internet access today, so I'll probably be posting this some time on Tuesday. Today was a day that we just kind of played it by ear. I got up and went running. Being rather unfamiliar with the neighborhood, I wound my way up through the streets of the subdivision thinking that there was no way I could ever live in this 55 plus neighborhood. I really don't like places that only have old people. Kids are for the most part, fun to have around. It has gotten up into the seventies as far as temperature goes, and will be getting up near 80 later on in the week. However, the morning lows are quite cool--in the forties. I first went outside with just a t-shirt and basketball shorts, then decided I needed something under the t-shirt--something long-sleeved.

When I got back from the run, I showered and then made breakfast for Ann and I. Tom is on diet restrictions because of bariatric stomach reduction surgery, and he stays up way late, then gets up way late as well. He takes care of his own food. Ann and I had scrambled eggs, toast, and we each had half an orange. Since Tom cannot eat salt at all, he has none around the house and the eggs were quite bland. I added some of the Missus Dash no-salt seasonings, but that didn't do the trick, so we ended up putting ketchup on our eggs--something I frequently do anyway, but that Ann rarely does.

After that we went on a drive. Our goal was to find a used book store that I had been to in the past. I couldn't quite remember where it was, but I thought it was in downtown Mesa. We found out that because it was Martin Luther King Day, they were having a parade and we couldn't get to that part of town, at least in the morning. So we drove on down the road to see if the book store was not in the middle of downtown, but couldn't find it. I have no smart phone so I used my basic tracphone and called Rebecca and asked her to look up on the internet some locations of used book stores in the Mesa area. We found out that we were fairly close to one of them where we stopped to make the call, so we headed to that store. It was in Tempe and we found it, looked around for a while, didn't find anything we wanted to buy, so we decided we needed to head back to our lodgings, mainly because Ann wasn't doing well with her RA and needed to stay off her feet. We found a deli called Fudgeworks to pick up some lunch. They had sandwiches, soups, salads, and of course, fudge and some other dessert kind of treats. It looked like a dive and I like to find dives that have great food. This place had some really good sandwiches--certainly worth a return trip. I had the reuben (I found out that I like sauer kraut after all), and Ann had a ham and swiss. We got a small piece of fudge to try and some coconut pecan cookies. The fudge was the kind of sugary fudge and I didn't really like it. I like a smooth fudge way better. The cookies were excellent.

After lunch, I took Ann back to our abode and I went out to Wal-Mart (for some food supplies, and some yarn that Ann needed), and then to one of the other bookstores on our list. I will be going back there. I picked up a couple of books. I hope to be able to find the other book store on Wednesday, our last full day here. That one is called Bookmunds.

We picked up a pizza from Bellagio's Pizzeria. It was pretty good. I'm still feeling my back from the skiing crash, but it's getting better every day.

Day Three...

Day 3 (Sunday): Sunday morning we got up early and went to church. The ward there was very friendly. After church we found a place to park and said our couples prayer. Then we went back to Tom's, fixed our lunch. I took a nap then went for a walk. We headed over to Debi and Morris' house for dinner. They were so gracious and fixed us Navajo tacos. We had a nice visit with Ann's mom while we were there. She had some old family photos in a drawer and wanted to go through and look at a bunch of them with us. I think she started feeling a little sorry for herself because she blurted out, "I think tonight's the night I'm going to Heaven." I brought this up to Debi and she said that she says this nearly all the time.

Morris and I planned a combination atv trip and hike for Tuesday. Ann will spend the day with Debi. Monday will just be a play it by ear kind of day.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Vacation Day 2

Day 2 Saturday: Let me begin by finishing day 1...we ended up eating at The Three Bears instead of Escobar's in Kanab. The reason being that we had eaten Mexican food the night before. Ann ate healthier than I did. She had an oriental salad. I had linguine alfredo and garlic bread. The linguine was my third choice because they were out of the other two choices I had selected ahead of it.

We went back later and got some shakes. They were fairly good, but not enough hot fudge in my hot fudge shake. I had a hard time sleeping because I forgot to bring my own pillow and the ones the motel provided were uncomfortable to say the least.

So on to day two. We left Kanab at around 8:20 after eating a fairly decent breakfast at the motel. As I'd been loading the 4runner, I'd seen the early morning sun just touching the nearby red mesa tops. Beautiful. I figured that on the way home I could keep this in mind and get up early to take some pictures.

We headed down the road. In Page, Arizona, we took the temporary diversion road 89T down to Gap. We had been on the old highway 89 a couple of years ago, just a day or two before a sinkhole/landslide had appeared in the road and it had been demolished by the slide and had to be closed. It hasn't yet reopened. The new road, 89T, goes mostly across the "Res", and the top speed is 55. This seems so slow when crossing this vast desert landscape and needing to travel hundreds of miles. It was nice when we finally got to Gap where the replacement road met up once again with the old road. I found myself wishing I'd have waited to get gas at Gap because it was 25 cents cheaper per gallon than the gas I'd bought in Page (thinking that the gas at Gap would be more expensive). We made it to Flagstaff at around lunch time and looked for a good place to eat. I knew about the Dog Haus where I'd eaten some of their good hot dogs in previous years, so that's where I wanted to go. Ann wanted something different so I picked up my food from the Dog Haus--it was good, by the way, though not good for me. Ann had something from McDonald's.

We got on the road again and made it down to Mesa. We are staying with Ann's brother, Tom in a house owned by their mother. This house doesn't have any kind of internet connection, so I'm having to wait until I'm at a place with wifi in order to post. We will be at Debi and Morris' house (Ann's sister and her husband) on Sunday. So I will be posting from there, if all goes according to plan. I think I'm going to be in withdrawal on this trip, but what the heck, life's an adventure, right?
 Dinner...we ate at Jack in the Box, but we went to the grocery store to buy some things so that we can make some more nutritious meals.

Traveling is interesting and you have some things happen that you'd never expect. It's best to be prepared, but you can't prepare for every possible contingency--so you have to be able to roll with whatever happens. That's a mental thing.

  I'm tired. I'll be going to bed soon.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Our vacation: Day 1

Our estimated time to leave for our trip was 8 am, and we ended up hitting the road at about 8:23. Our destination for the day would be Kanab, Utah, roughly half way between the Salt Lake Valley and the Phoenix, Arizona area. The driving was fairly uneventful and we found ourselves in Panguitch at around 12:30 where we stopped for lunch at the Flying M Coffee Shop. This place has a small gift shop near the entrance and then further back in was the eating area. There was an oldies station playing on speakers from an old compact stereo system, complete with 8-track tape--state of the art, I know.

I ordered the special, which was a garlic/mushroom stuffed burger and fries. Ann ordered the club sandwich with bacon. I thought the burger wasn't bad, but not great. Ann's club was fantastic, she said. The fries were good, but there were too many--and generally that's a compliment. However, I left a few on the plate that I just couldn't finish.

After lunch we continued on to Kanab, winding our way through some amazing country with red rock peaks dusted with snow. We arrived in Kanab at about 2:30, drove around assessing the town because the info we got said check-in time for our motel was 3 pm, and then about ten to, we stopped at the motel--the Victorian Inn--and were able to check in.

We will be going out for dinner later--probably at a place called Escobar's--provided it isn't closed. One thing we're finding in these smaller southern Utah towns is that a lot of the businesses, including restaurants, are seasonal and winter isn't their peak season. For example, in Panguitch, there were only three choices for lunch, Subway, a convenience store pizza place, and the Flying M where we ended up. Just like when we went through Moab in the winter a few years ago.

I love this quote

I love this quote by Max Lucado, and is it ever true:

“When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want?

Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn't they matter most now?”