First of all, if the photos in the previous entry weren’t enough for you, here is the full Picassa album so far. We’ll keep updating this puppy as the photos come in, but I’ll link when we get another good chunk uploaded.
Currently we’re in Phoenix, at Dan’s brother’s house. Dan’s brother is a dentist, and he just started a brand new practice here in Chandler. It’s fun to listen to Ryan talk about both dentistry and small business, because he cares a great deal about both. It’s a shame so few of you are here in Arizona, because truly there can be no dentist who cares more about patients. He’s a full-service dentist, doing everything from standard cleanings to dental implants, and he’s also one of the rare few certified to put people under while he does the procedures. I don’t require that myself, but as a true Princess of Dental Work (seven or eight root canals, two implants, countless fillings, two extractions), I can tell you he is The Shit. He’s finishing off the crown for my second implant today, as a matter of fact.
Ryan and Olenka always make us feel at home, as only family can. We’ve spent the last two days lounging in their pool, living room, and taking many naps. They took us out for dinner on Tuesday, as it was Dan’s birthday, and last night we had Costco pizza and killer salad. It’s just nice to catch up with them, and to relax.
But I haven’t really given you a detailed description of the whole trip so far, and Ryan & Olenka aren’t the first family we’ve seen. So let’s start this at the beginning, shall we?
We left Ames at 7:30AM, in pouring rain. We had to load the car in it, too, which wasn’t any fun since it was a tight fit and needed some serious finesse to get the job done. We managed, but the first effort really was a bit slapdash. I hadn’t slept well the night before, which made for a less than auspicious start, and the rain didn’t help. But we lifted our chins and carried on, and by the time we made it out of Iowa, the rain had stopped.
The big joke around the midwest is that driving through Nebraska is driving through hell; after driving from Cortez, Colorado to Flagstaff, I can tell you that Nebraska is paradise in comparison. And to be honest, this time it was very lush and verdant, and we enjoyed watching the Platte River follow us along. The only real problem with Nebraska is that it is so very wide, and you begin to worry that you’ll never get through it. And when you begin your day at 5AM, it’s especially long.
Our real coup was the cooler. I had packed a full-sized cooler plus a smaller collapsible full of meat, cheese, yogurt, milk, pop, pudding, and juice, and I also packed bread, cereal, crackers, almonds, protein bars and other such nibbles in grocery bags. As a consequence, we bought nothing but gas until Sterling, Colorado, and there all we got were some chicken strips for something warm. Prior to that we had milk and cookies, cereal, sandwiches, applesauce, coffee–everything. And we’ve done that every day we’ve been on the road. I think I spent about $100 in groceries for the trip, and so far they’ve lasted us six days. They’ll carry us to Los Angeles tomorrow, too, and at best I’ll need to do a bit of replacement in LA before we head home.
The first trip crisis, though, was the camera. I had broken our good one last year by accident, and we’ve been using Dan’s mother’s; for Dan’s birthday (which was Tuesday) they gave him a new one. But we didn’t use it much before we left, and on Saturday morning we realized it really didn’t take that good of photos, that they were always blurry. So we knew that on the way or in Denver that night we’d have to pick up a new one. We ended up picking up a Canon Power Shot SX110IS at the Englewood Best Buy, and we are absolutely pleased with it. Most impressive to me is how well it takes photos out the car window–even at high speeds they aren’t blurry. Well done, Canon.
Saturday ended in Denver, with us arriving at my aunt and uncle’s house around 7:45 MST. Anna played with their dogs while Dan & I ran to Best Buy, and then we all sat down for some grilled pork chops & killer salad. Anna & I took a dip in their hot tub while Dan played with the new camera, and then we all passed out in my cousin Scott’s bedroom. In the morning my aunt fixed us a lovely breakfast, we had a bit of a visit, and then it was on to Cortez.
On Sunday we were travelling to Cortez, Colorado, which is very near Mesa Verde National Park. We weren’t sure if we’d get there in time to tour the park or not; turns out decidedly not, both from arrival time and how long it ended up taking us to tour the park. But the drive was beautiful. No one could read or watch anything; we were too busy gawking. Anna declared she wanted to move to Colorado, and began to weave herself a life where she lived in a mountain valley and raised horses. The most interesting part of all this was that we wouldn’t have taken this route if it weren’t for the Garmin GPS system we borrowed from Dan’s parents; we had planned on going south on I-25, but the Garmin took us through the mountains themselves. (We’ve nicknamed the Garmin Lady G because it’s a female voice, and we gave her a British accent.) We could have lived without Wolf Creek Pass, though. Dan did the driving, and I kept my eyes shut tight and tried not to hyperventilate.
We arrived at Cortez around 8PM, got ourselves situated in the room, then set off for some dinner. The Pizza Hut seemed to have very bad service, so we aborted and went to Nero’s Italian Restaurant instead, which was absolutely perfect. We headed back to the room, and after a quick dip in the hot tub for Anna, we passed out in bed.
On Monday morning we toured Mesa Verde, or at least a portion of it. We had no idea it was such a vast park, and we didn’t realize we’d have to drive an hour up into mountains to get to it! As a consequence, we had to content ourselves with just a portion of the park due to time, so we saw the Spruce Tree House, the most preserved and accessible monument in the park. After a quick picnic, we got back on the road and headed south to Arizona.
The drive quickly became desolate, and shortly after that we entered the Navajo Nation. The landscape was beautiful in a strange way, but there was no real life, and it was just emptiness after emptiness, with a lot of roadside stands offering jewelry and Native American crafts. We did stop at Four Corners, but otherwise we just drove as fast as we could, trying to get out of it. We did stop at Cameron Trading Post, which we wished then were our hotel, as it would have put us just as close to the Grand Canyon with an hour less drive. But we had a reservation at the Best Western of Williams, Arizona, so we had to keep going.
The funniest part was that we saw a family at Cameron Trading Post who we’d seen at Mesa Verde, and we found out we were both going to the canyon the next day, too. They were from Ohio, making much the same trip as we were, though they weren’t going all the way to LA. We thought of the extra driving necessary to come from Ohio, and we shuddered.
Eventually we made it to the hotel, after a bit of a kerfluffle with Lady G in Flagstaff as she insisted we take an onramp that wasn’t there. But we sorted it out, got to our destination, had some Pizza Hut delivery, more hot tub, then passed out.
During the night, sadly, I had my worst pain day yet, which I think I blogged here. Or tweeted. Anyway, it was a grim bit of business, but I tried to slough it off as it was Dan’s birthday. We gave him a present (a Trix t-shirt), packed up again, then headed to the Grand Canyon. It was raining on the way, which made us worried, and it was misty as we arrived, but within a half hour it was beautiful and sunny, and we got to see it in all its glory. It really isn’t something you can capture in photos or video. You have to stand there and see it to fully grasp how huge it is, and even then you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing.
We also saw the Ohio family again–both of us, even though at the time we were in different parts of the park!
After the Grand Canyon, we pressed on to Phoenix, though we made a detour back to Cameron because there were a few things there we’d decided we wanted to pick up. We were glad we did, because the drive that way was beautiful. First we drove through a pine forest where we saw some elk, and then we hit several additional lookout points for the canyon, then watched it fade into almost nothing as we headed back into the Navajo Nation. We had lunch at Cameron, too, then went south into the desert.
And since then we’ve been here, with Ryan and Olenka, resting, relaxing, and enjoying the company. We’re thinking of heading out to the mall here in a bit, and I’m going to address some of those postcards with Anna, if I can stop getting her to write them out to friends from her class whose addresses I don’t have. Tomorrow we head to Los Angeles, to see Dan’s sister & boyfriend and to stay with . We plan to see the beaches, Disneyland, and anything else that trips our fancy. Then Wednesday we begin the trek back to Iowa.
This is the report so far. I’ll get you more when it’s been a few more days, but keep watching twitter & Picassa if you can’t keep until then.