Sunday, June 13, 2010

On the Road Again…

Callie and I were only woken up once by the refrigerator this night because after that Callie unplugged it. Because we went to bed early we also woke up early. So by 6:30am we were packed and ready to go. We walked down to the restaurant to get some breakfast and take some last pictures of the canyon.

Then we were on the road again. Our final destination… Home Sweet Home!
At one point Callie had a stream of thought 30 minutes outside of the Grand Canyon Park that we had left our "souvenir" cinnamon rolls in the stupid buzzing refrigerator. Bummer!
We drove along I-40, passing more Route 66 signs than I have ever seen. It appears that Route 66 parallels I-40 for most of the way through Arizona. We talked about how great of a trip this was and laughed at all the crazy stuff that happened to us and that we did. And we mulled over an idea of doing another trip like this. We drove without many stops all the way home.

We made it home in 11 hours with enough time to have dinner at home, do some laundry and recuperate before I had to go to work the next day.

Callie and I agreed that it was a perfect trip. We had just long enough at each place we stopped along the way. We didn’t have car problems or anything really bad happen to us, except for last Sunday with all the storms. We got to see all we wanted to see and more.
Thank you for following Callie and myself (Carilee) and our mascot, Trigger, on this trip. And stay tuned for more adventures from us, as I am sure this will not be the last.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Grandest Canyon of Them All

Callie and I had a rough night of sleep as our refrigerator in the room make this loud annoying buzzing noise through the night. But we didn’t want to unplug it because we had our cinnamon rolls from Lulu’s in there. We woke up early because of the noise, but also because we were still dealing with the time change. We decided to get ready, grab some breakfast and begin our day of hiking.

Now before you think we would be crazy enough to attempt hiking the whole trail to the bottom and up, be reassured that we’re not that suicidal. We did have a hearty breakfast at the lodge’s restaurant and then we loaded our backpacks with water and hiked down to the 1 1/2 mile Rest House. We tried very hard not to take pictures on the way down so that we would have a few excuses to stop on the way up. Two groups of donkeys passed us on the way.

The downhill part was the easiest. When we started back up the canyon it took a little longer and was more strenuous, but we took our time, stopped to see the big horn sheep on the hill,

to talked to the crazy kids who were going to the bottom and back up (starting at 10am), hike in the slushy hail and to encourage the poor backpackers who looked ready to give up just 1/2 mile from the top.

After we reached the top we went back to our room to rest our legs just a bit. We both said that is the only way to see the canyon, to actually get down into it, even if it is 1 1/2 miles. We then grabbed a small lunch and hopped on the Hermit’s Rest Bus. Our plan had been to ride the bus a little while and hike a mile or so on the rim trail. However, the weather had different plans for us. After we got off at the first stop to see the views the storm really began. We scrambled back on the next bus came on and only got off at stops we really wanted to get off at. It was definitely a different perspective of the canyon from these view points because you can see the river from most of them and see how deep the canyon is. It was only a bummer that the rain was making it hard to see very far down and across the canyon.

We took the bus back from Hermit’s Rest and tried to stay warm. We transferred buses and headed straight for the visitor center, while we were out and about. We saw some Elk.

We got our passports stamped and bought a few souvenirs and postcards. Then we went back to the cabin to take warm showers and get ready for our dinner at El Tovar.
By the time we were walking to El Tovar the sun had come out and the clouds were trying to clear. We had a very good meal at El Tovar, it was fancy and delicious with a wonderful homemade apple pie for dessert. Yum! It was a great “Last Supper” for our trip.

We left hope to catch the sunset on the rim, which is the more famous thing to see at the Grand Canyon, unfortunately the clouds had not cleared enough to give us a great picture.

So Callie and I shopped in the Bright Angel store for T-shirts and stuff.
After that long, cold, non-stop day Callie and I went back to the cabin and filled out our postcards. We were in bed asleep by 9pm.

Friday, June 11, 2010

National Parks Really are America’s Best Idea

We left Roswell really early for a couple of reasons. One, to get out of that weird town. Two, to make it to Albuquerque, NM for some Cracker Barrel. Callie and I have never been to a Cracker Barrel and we were told by a few people it was the place to eat. So we drove 3 hours North-West to Cracker Barrel and had a late breakfast. It was delicious, we were definitely recommended to the right place. Trigger liked that you can play chess out front in the nice porch.

From there we headed 3 more hours West to Petrified Forest National Park which also includes the Painted Desert. We started at the main visitor center by I-40 and drove south through the middle of the park. The Painted Desert was a sight to behold. Even though it was a little over cast for us the colors and layers of dirt were amazing.

Unlike anything I have ever seen, especially in a desert where you normally only see red and brown dirt. We hiked 1.2 miles on the Painted Desert Rim Trail. From there we visited the Painted Desert Inn, which is now museum in the shape and look of a Pueblo.

Where Callie bought a National Parks Passport and has joined me in the quest to visit all 58 National Parks.

As we continued south on the road through the park we started to see less of the colorful mountains and more of the Petrified Wood, which is now large stones shaped like trees.

The main theme of the park is “Do not take the Petrified Wood.” Callie and I speculated that it was probably pretty common for people to take the stones because they are pocket size. Our last stop in the park was Rainbow Ranger Station.

Behind this building is a large cluster of the Petrified Wood. What makes this particular section special is because they are all different colors, white, purple, blue, brown, black, etc. It was beautiful.

After spending a little more time than planned in the park Callie and I headed on our way for another 3 hours to Grand Canyon National Park. We got there after dark and tried as best we can to find the Bright Angel Lodge. When we arrived we checked in at the front desk and went to find our cabin. When we found it I realized we were only 20-30 feet away from the edge of the canyon. It was so dark that we could not really see the canyon but I was so excited that I looked anyway. As we were unloading our car people kept coming up the trail because we were also right by the Bright Angel Trail. There was one large group that I talked to who had stayed down in the canyon for a couple of day and it had taken them 15 hours to come up the trail today. Crazy! We were really impressed by our little cabin and settled in for the night. Once again, they had no internet for us to update the blog.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Little Green Men

We got going early to leave hot San Antonio. We set the GPS for the closest Gas Station and drove. Unfortunately the only time the GPS failed us was this time. It lead us to a street corner in a seedy part of town that contained no Gas Station. So we hopped on I-10 and drove to the edge of town where we saw actual gas station signs.

After that we were off toward Roswell, NM. Part of the reason we had left early was to make it to the UFO Museum before it closed at 5pm. Our drive that day retraced our steps, exactly from our trip into San Antonio. We did not realize that Roswell was only 45 minutes North of Carlsbad. So we drove the familiar roads. The best thing about I-10 in Texas is it is 80 mph most of the time, unless you are traveling through Kerr County or through a city (which are far and few between).
When we reached Roswell we drove straight to the museum.The Museum’s full name is “UFO Museum and Research Library”.

We paid a $5 entrance fee and walked into what looked like an exhibit hall at the Fresno County Fair. The first exhibit we stopped at was talking about the first reported sighting of UFOs and in the first few sentences there was a very bad typo. I turned to Callie and said, It would help their credibility if someone would at least edit these. Then we proceeded to read through and look at stories about the Roswell Incident and other supposed UFO sightings. We can say, without a doubt, that there were no aliens in Roswell. The pictures of the “space craft” show it is definitely Reynolds Aluminum Foil wrapped over a metal structure. I do have to admit, that I went into the museum thinking, Maybe the government did a cover up, I could see that being a plausible explanation. After seeing all the evidence they had to show, I know there were no cover-ups. It was really a weather balloon or military device of some sort, there was definitely no aliens. Callie and I had a good laugh about all of that. And Trigger got in on the action.

We headed to our hotel after that. We had been warned that the people in Roswell were a little off. Callie and I got to witness it firsthand. The gal who checked us in was very “wistful” and definitely not all together. There was a group of tattooed Hispanic men staying in the room below us who leered at us as we went upstairs so Callie and I decided we would not leave the hotel room alone. We went over to Applebee’s across the street for dinner. Then we hung out in our hotel room the rest of the night. Unfortunately there was no internet service at the hotel so we couldn’t update the blog. We had a good laugh about that too, because I ended my last blog with “If you don’t hear from us we’ve been abducted.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Walking the Riverwalk

Today we got to sleep in and take our time getting ready. We walked over to Lulu's Bakery where we ordered their 3 pound cinnamon roll made famous by the show Man vs Food. It was huge and delicious!

We finished about 2/3 of it between Callie and myself (which kept us full until dinner). Then we walked back to the hotel with a few “souvenir rolls”. I do have to say that I have never sweat so much. The weather said “87 but feels like 97” with the humidity and little bit of rain we had on the way. The humidity is insane here. It made us appreciate the dry heat we have in Fresno.
After that we decided to shop on the Riverwalk. On the boat tour the night before we drove by a bunch of shops and restaurants that looked good, so we decided to check them out today.

We walked the main length of the Riverwalk area and did some shopping but it got way too hot. So we found our way to the River Center Mall where we enjoyed the air conditioning. After we cooled down we decided to walk over to the Alamo again. We walked around the outside area of the Alamo and sat and listened to a Historical Speaker for half an hour. The historian talked about what led up to the main 7 days of fighting and what happened after to help Texas become it's own territory. After the Alamo we went over to the Menger Bar which had been recommended to us by our tour guide the day before. The reason it was recommended was because it has several historical values. First, it was fashioned to look like the English House of Lord's Pub. Second, it was where Roosevelt would make a call for his “Rough Riders”. The tour guide yesterday said that Roosevelt was legended to ride in on his horse with his gun held high and ask for men to join his Rough Riders. If they declined he would come in and buy them all drinks. Then when they were drunk he would have them sign their “Tab” and wake up the next day with a hang over and in the army. The tour guide told us, “Beware what you sign in the Menger Bar.”

After the Menger we headed back to our hotel to wash up a little before our dinner reservation at The SaltGrass Steakhouse. Our dinner there was delicious. It had been recommended by our pick up driver for the tour. It did not disappoint, creamy artichoke dip, melt in your mouth fillets, cheesy macaroni, savory garlic potatoes. Getting hungry yet?!

Now were are back in our room getting everything pulled together and ready to go because tomorrow we head out, back to the open road. Roswell, NM is the next destination, so if you don't see a post tomorrow it's because we were abducted by aliens... or the FBI, depending on what we do in Roswell.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tejas = Friend

Today started out with a tour of the Missions in and around San Antonio. We started at the Alamo where we walked around the small mission building. It was sadly unimpressive because the only thing that remains is the Mission, no walls, no war areas, no real history. But luckily our tour took us to 2 other missions. Second stop was at Mission San Jose,

where they have restored the majority of the mission and the grounds around the mission. Then we stopped at Mission Concepcion

which used to be the oldest unrestored mission in the US. There is a lovely window on the church called the Rosa Window. The outline of the window is used all over Texas and is a very familiar look. After that we were dropped off at El Mercado, a indoor market with a lot of Mexican shops. And a fantastic Panaderia where Callie and I bought cheap tasty treats. Then it was back to our hotel.
We found out a couple of interesting facts on the tour: 1. There are 5 missions in Texas and 4 of them are stilled being used as a church the only one not is The Alamo, who's actual name is Mission San Antonio de Vallejo. 2. The San Antonio river is really more of a creek here in San Antonio, other than what they have dammed up for the Riverwalk. 3. The name Texas came from an Native American word meaning Friend. The Spanish monks spelled it Tejas and named this area that name because of the Indians. When the Mexicans took over this area they changed Tejas to Texas but the x is silent in Spanish. Finally when the English speaking community moved in and saw the spelling they called it Texas as the way we know it.
We got to eat at our first Texas BBQ in Texas for lunch at The County Line on the Riverwalk. And it did not disappoint. Both Callie and I had Brisket and I got the fried okra (my first on any kind of okra). Callie said it reminded her of her grandma's food. Delicious! After our tour we hung out in our hotel room for a while, which was nice. Then we headed to dinner at a great Texas Steak house.
Last plan of the day was a trip on a boat down the river so that we could see the town at night.

Just shortly after our boat left the heavens opened up, and the rain fell on us. There was only a couple of umbrellas in the boat so Callie and I decided to ride out in the rain. It was a great adventure. We were soaked from head to toe.

Tomorrow we only have plans to visit Lulu's for their Texas sized Cinnamon Rolls. But we are still exploring what we will be filling our day with.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Texas or Bust!

Our hotel in Carlsbad was as close to a “Nimon Special” as you can get. There was termite markings in the closet, I woke up to an unknown bug crawling on my arm in the night, general uncleanliness and a very dirty-desert exterior. And breakfast was sub-par especially because we were particularly hungry after having no dinner. But we ate what we could and headed out on our next day's adventure.
Our first stop, Carlsbad Cavern National Park. We spoke to the rangers to get the low down on what to do. They showed us where we buy tickets to go into the Caverns and that there is an elevator that takes your 750 feet under ground. Since we were limited on time we decided to skip walking down the 1 mile trail from the natural entrance down to the Big Room and hopped on the elevator. We were pretty sure we were the first people down today as the ranger took just Callie and I down and we saw no one else in the caverns when we started. The first stop was the Cave Bathrooms (Sounds silly, but pure awesomeness)! Then we entered the caverns. We spent the majority of the time with our mouths open staring wide eyed at the wonders above, below and around us. There are no words to describe something you MUST experience yourself. (We brought Trigger with us, but he was too scared of the dark to get out of the backpack... in other words we forgot about him in our distraction of the cavern). And it was really hard to take good pictures in the dark of the cave. But here are a few of the good ones:

After the wonders of the caverns we headed on the road towards our ultimate destination. The GPS took us along a back road short cut where we crossed 7 or 8 cattle guards, a group of cows, through the boondocks of New Mexico and then finally out to Hwy 285. Where we drove down into Texas and to the I-10.(We discovered that Texas is another hours difference than CA so we changed our clocks again.)

"Everything's bigger in Texas" says Trigger

Trigger was very happy to be back in his home state.
Along the Freeway we found the speed limit to be 80 mph!!! Our transitioned us to a Texas we didn't know existed, the green forest, hilly Texas. It was a beautiful view for most of the way into San Antonio. And the travels went without incident, Yippee!
When we finally we entered the San Antonio city limits our excitement was palpable. We found our hotel and check in. In our room we found a lovely space that was cool and inviting. And out our back door is a patio that opens up right over the Riverwalk.

We got a restaurant recommendation by our hotel person to a place right next door, on the Riverwalk call Acenar Modern Tex-Mex which was a great introduction to Texas food. It was delicious, with good food, good drinks and a great Tres Leches Cake – Yum!
Tomorrow is promising to be a great day with a tour of the Missions and The Alamo already scheduled. Stay tuned tomorrow for our next post!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

When we hit the road...

… things happen! Today was an awesome, funny, windy/scary, random, Are you kidding? And let's just get there. With a little bit of scary at the end.
First – Awesome! Our first stop in the morning was Saguaro National Park (Rincon Mtns – East).

What a neat little park. We stopped at the Visitor Center (as one always should when first visiting a NP) and talked to the rangers. We made friends with the rangers and they asked if we were on a road trip. When we replied yes, they asked where to, San Antonio. The person behind us whipped around and said, that's where we are coming from. So we had a nice conversation with another member of the National Park system who works at the missions in San Antonio. We swapped travel suggestions and stops with them and found that their end destination was Grand Canyon for a 2 week trip. How great and random a run in! We then sat and watched their intro video where we learned that not only is there the cactus forest but a mountain area with pines, jaguars and good backpacking. We then took the 8 mile loop drive around the cactus forest.

We were very delighted to see a huge environment with lots of giant saguaros growing right next to Tucson. We only did one short hike as our thermometer read 99 at 10:30am. But we stopped and took lots of pictures. After that we busted out of Tucson and on the road toward Carlsbad.
Second – Funny! On our way we followed the signs to “The Thing?” in Dragoon, AZ.

It made for a nice lunch stop with the Dairy Queen next to it. We then paid $1 to see “The Thing?” We wandered through 3 sheds with random art, supposedly historic artifacts and vehicles, and past a Chinese mummy.

And then exited the exhibit with out ever seeing The Thing. Which was hilarious because we realize that there is no Thing. Thus the question mark.
Third – Windy/Scary! We started passing signs that said “Zero Visibility Possible”

“Dust Storms Possible for the Next 15 Miles” “Drive with Caution” There was a gathering storm in the distant sky that we kept getting closer to. We found out what those signs meant very shortly. The wind picked up and soon we could see huge dust devils on the outskirts of town. And then we were in the middle of it.

Traffic slowed to a crawl as the wind and dust whipped around us. It looked like fog and which Fresno has trained us well for.
Fourth – Random! Upon entering Texas we found ourselves in the heart of El Paso. Tijuana 2 was on the right of the freeway going all the way to Mexico as far as we could tell while a normal town continued to the left of us. We had to turn off into El Paso to get on to US180/62 to head north to Carlsbad, NM. Texas was not kind to us today. The highway started us through a rough part of town, then we came upon a huge traffic jam. We saw that the railway crossing was down and started to laugh because a train was about the only thing that hadn't delayed us yet. Then we realized that the traffic was still moving, just slowly. As we got closer we saw that people were going around the railway crossing. There seemed to be a malfunction as there wasn't really a train. By the time we got up the crossing guard it had started to raise, but not all the way. We rolled down a window and listened for a train before we crossed the tracks. That is when we realized that there was a man lifting the cross guard for the cars to pass through. Callie's first questions was “Does this guy work for the railway?” then “Or is he just a good Samaritan?” Either way, we got through and sped on our way. This highway was a little different, it had a lot of stop lights for a long time and El Paso seemed to go on for 10s of miles.
Fifth – Are you kidding? Not far out of El Paso, just as we started to get up to the speed limit there was a check point that every car had to stop at. As we pulled in we saw that it was a Border Control stop. They were stopping every car and checking for any “hitchhikers” (or however you say that in Spanish). They asked if we were traveling and made us roll down our back windows to check the back seat. After that way station we were truly on our way... or so we thought.
Sixth – Let's just get there! The storm that had been was hovering above us finally wreaked havoc us in the hills of the Outback of Texas. It stormed the worst I think we have ever seen. Huge flashes of lightning with 6 arms were in the sky while on the ground we were being pelted by rain and hail. Callie, the determined driver, went as fast as safely possible because by that time we were both just ready to be done with this crazy day of driving. The end of the storm was in sight finally as we came up to a courageous motorcyclist braving the storm.
Last – And a little bit of scary! We passed the beautiful and majestic Guadalupe Mountains

and came up to Carlsbad Caverns. As we were counting down the miles to our final resting place Callie suddenly swerved. Just missing a huge skunk by mere inches. That-was-it. Callie drove with caution but speed looking for the nearest signs that Carlsbad was not a desert mirage. We did actually make it to our hotel and climbed out of the car with a lot of relief. And got a whiff of the small aftermath of the skunk-crossing. When we arrived we checked in and headed to the restaurant as we had not had dinner yet. But as our luck of the day continued, the restaurant was closed so we went to our room and bed because that was all that was left.
Now on to bigger and better things tomorrow. And here is hoping that Texas is kinder to us.

Blog to come

Last night Sheri and I stayed up late typing up all the events of our day yesterday, however, the hotel had some odd firewall so we were unable to post about our extravaganza. We hope to have it posted tonight when we reach our hotel in San Antonio. You do not want to miss that blog. Yesterday was very interesting to say the least.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Greetings From Tucson, AZ

Trigger Ready to Be on the Road!

We started this morning nice and early, Callie arriving at my house at 6:45am. We loaded up the car and made our first stop at Starbucks on Temperance. Which was lucky because I realized I had forgotten my cell phone at home. Phew! After retrieving the cell phone we were off like a herd of turtles.
The road from Fresno on 99 to 58-E is road that Callie and I have traveled many times.

The thermometer kept on climbing as the day went on and we hit triple digits by lunch time when we stopped outside Palm Springs, CA for lunch. Our first adventure began at the Del Taco where we had a trainee take my order. She then gave my someone else's food, then not the right order, and finally the right food after much coercing.
Our final CA stop was Blythe for gas where the temperature hit 109. Yikes!

The transition from CA to AZ had only a few contrasts. We traded Joshua Trees for Saguaro Cacti. A lot more highway patrol cars hiding in the bushes. And the best was the amount of cars with towering piles of furniture on the back of them. Most with 1 couch, 2 chairs, maybe a bed, a refrigerator, stack-able washer and dryers.
After passing the first few cops I realized I had forgot my passport. Callie and I got a good joke out of it because we were saying that a cop would pull me over and ask for a passport or birth certificate and I would promptly reply "No Senor."
Other than that, the view was pretty much desert as far as you can see.

We counted down the miles to Tucson with excitement after we passed through Phoenix, AZ. And we finally saw our first sign for the Saguaro National Park so we knew we were close. After our 11 hour drive we pulled off the highway in search of our hotel and drove through some shady parts of the town but we found our hotel and it was nicer than expected. We got some food recommendations from the hotel person and headed a couple of blocks to Caruso's Italian Restaurant.

The restaurant was in what Callie described as Tower District/San Francisco. The food was delicious.
Now we are very ready for bed and for another exciting day tomorrow with Saguaro NP and Carlsbad Caverns NP.