Friday, September 12, 2014

The Dreaded "D" Word - Detour

To save time this morning, we did something we rarely do - ate breakfast at the "free Continental breakfast." The Super 8 in Las Vegas put out a decent spread, including rolls, sausage patties and scrambled egg rounds - perfect for breakfast sandwiches. Then, we rolled on Interstate 15.

Unfortunately, of the three routes we could have taken, we picked the route that was actually washed away by Norbert. There were still no lanes getting through. Trucks and traffic to Salt Lake City was detoured north, coming into Salt Lake City from the west. Other traffic took the detour through Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Powell Recreation Area.

Valley of Fire State Park gets its name from the brillant red sandstone found in the valley. The detour wound through the park on the main road in a pair of endless Conga-Lines of cars, motorcycles, RVs and small trucks: one northbound and one southbound. We pulled off a number of times to admire the rock formations and other scenery.

Eventually, we got back on I-15. Almost immediately, we reached our exit for Utah State ighway 9, toward Hurricane and Zion National Park. At Huricane, UT, we had the choice of staying on State Highway 9 and going to Zion National Park or switching to State Highway 59 and bypassing the park. Guess which route we chose... You got it right - we headed for Zion National Park.

State Highway 9 took us to Springdale, UT, right before the park entrance. When we arrived, traffic was backed up - there was a big music event going on in the park. Many of the concert goers left their cars in town and took the park bus. As we were going through, we had to wait and pass the gatehouse. (Thank God for the "old fogey" pass, again!!) Time pressure forbade us from exploring the museum and vistior's center.

Zion National Park is a collection of narrow canyons and mesas. Once clear of the entrance, we took Zion Park Boulevard which started to climb and entered a group of switchbacks climbing the south wall of Pine Creek Canyon. Of course, we took a few photographs. This first one is, I beleive, The East Temple.

The road did not quite make it to the top of the mesa. Instead, it entered a set of rather narrow tunnels. On the other side, we pulled over in the overlook for Checkerboard Mesa. This feature gets its name from the vertical and horizontal lines that make it look somewhat like a huge checkerboard.

On the other side of the overlook was this view of a stepped mesa.

We had only a short time in the park. All we saw was a small part of the sourthern section. If we had more time, we could have taken the bus up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive or gone to the western and northern parts of the park. There is also an extensive network of hiking trails. Tis is definately a place we would like to come back to and spend more time.

After leaving the park, we stayed on State Highway 9 as it crossed some beautiful and unpopulated country. After we turned south on US 89, we started looking for accomidations. Because of the music event, every hotel and motel we passed said "No Vacency." We talked to one hotelier and were told that not only is everyone booked, but room rates are almost doubled for this weekend. We followed US-89 to Kanab, UT where we switched to US 89A. Still, no vacancies. The road took us into Kaibab National Forest. At this point, we began to think we would go hungry and sleep in the car. We turned south on State Highway 67 and headed for the north rim of the Grand Canyon, hoping that we would find something along the way.

When we reached Jacob Well, we found a lodge with one room left and a dining room. The best news - the prices were reasonable! Time to eat and call it a night...

Postscript

On September 29, Fox News posted the following:

Hiker found dead in Zion National Park

SALT LAKE CITY – A 34-year-old Southern California man was found dead over the weekend in Zion National Park after rising floodwaters trapped him in a narrow canyon that is home to one of the park's best-known hiking trails.

Douglas Yoshi Vo's body was found Sunday afternoon in the "Narrows," a popular hike that entails walking in shallow water through a winding canyon with steep walls, National Park Service spokesman David Eaker said.

Vo, of Westminster, California, and his friend began hiking early Saturday when rains came and the river began rising rapidly, forcing them to take refuge on high ground. They ended up on opposite sides of the raging river and could not talk to one another because of the noise of the water, Eaker said.

The two waited until the afternoon, hoping the water level would lower and allow them to hike out.

Vo's friend swam the flooding river to safety, while Vo remained where he was, Eaker said. The friend's name wasn't made public.

He alerted park rangers Saturday evening about Vo, but rescuers determined the river was running too high to safely enter at night. Officials also thought Vo was in a safe place.

When rangers hiked into the canyon Sunday morning, Vo wasn't where he was the day before. His body was found about a quarter-mile downriver on a bank around 2 p.m. Sunday.

Authorities have not yet determined a cause of death.

"We don't know if decided to swim as well or if he fell in," Eaker said.

Several people have died in the Narrows over the years, Eaker said, with the latest coming in 2010 when two people tried to build a makeshift raft and float down the river.

On Saturday, when Vo and his friend began their hike, there were flash flood warnings for the area surrounding the canyon. But, it's believed that rangers didn't put up warning signs at the trailhead until after the men started the hike.

It doesn't appear anybody else was in the canyon when the flooding started, Eaker said. It is unknown if the men were aware of the weather forecast, he said.

The water was flowing at about 46 cubic feet per second when the men started the hike. At the peak of the flooding, it was roaring at 4,000 cubic feet per second, Eaker said. The death highlights the dangers of hiking in canyons when storms are forecast, he said.

Zion National Park, in the southwest corner of Utah, is the state's most popular national park. Earlier this month, it was closed for several hours when heavy rain and a surging river made park routes impassable.

Heavy rain swamped much of Utah over the weekend, shutting down a sewage treatment plant, damaging homes and causing a moving car to plunge into a river.

In southern Utah, a man and woman from Italy were returning to their campsite at when the ground under the pavement gave way due to heavy flooding and sent their car into a river in Garfield County. They suffered extreme hypothermia and were taken to the hospital, where they are expected to make a full recovery, said sheriff's spokeswoman Cheryl Church said.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Really Time to Roll for Home

Vacation is coming to a close and it is time to head for home. From Fresno, we headed south on Claifornia 99 back toward Bakersfield, CA. Again, we saw the fallow fields where crops would normally grow. Again, we saw the signs "Water = Jobs" and "Water = Food." It was really depressing. To be fair, many fields had corn, soy beans or grapes. There were a few groves of citris trees, probably oranges or lemons. At Bakersfield, we took California 58 east.

California 58 took us past the famed Tehachapi Loop, where the Union Pacific Railroad uses a spiral to climb high enough to cross through Tehachapi Pass. Unfortunately, due to time pressures, we did not have time to stop and watch the trains. My wife's late father brough our son here to see the trains, museum and other attractions.

California 58 took us on to Barstow CA. Now, we had a decision to make. The remains of Pacific hurricane Norbert had just run up through the deserts of southeastern California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah, causing extensive flooding. We had the choice of three routes: Interstate 10 as the southern route, Interstate 40 as the central route or Interstate 15 and US 89 as the northern route. As of this morning's news report, all three were still closed due to the damage caused by Norbert. To make our decision more complicated, Pacific huricane Odile was quickly moving north toward the Baja Pennisula. Barstow is where we could take either I-15 or I-40. If we took I-40, we could drop down through Lake Havasu to catch I-10. Decisions, decisions, decisions....

Looking at the speed of Odile, we expected to meet it in southern Arizona, if we took the I-10 route. Beside, it would mean getting on I-40 which was experiencing very heavy truck traffic. I-15 was closed north of Las Vegas, NV, but they expected to have it open by tomarrow. This route was north of the mountains which we hoped would slow Odile down. We have driven the I-10 and I-40 routes before, so we decided to take I-15.

From Barsow, we rolled north on I-15. We got about ten miles out of town, when my son hit a pothole wrong and tore the sidewall of the passenger side front tire. We put on the spare and backtracked to Barstow and the nearest Wal*Mart. Maybe we should have taken this as a warning....

After getting a new tire, we got back on the road and rolled for Las Vegas. We could tell when we crossed the border into Nevada - there were casinos on both sides of the highway. It quieted down for a while until the glow on the easter horizon grew to become the lights of Las Vegas! We quickly found lodging at a Super 8 Model that was one block from the famed Las Vegas Strip. To our suprise, the rates were very reasonable.

Since we had to find some dinner and could use a little exercise, we walked over to the Strip and headed south toward the MGM Grand Hotel. The Strip has a barrier to separate the pedestrians from the vehicles. It definately keeps the drunks safe. We saw more people walking with alcholic drinks while on our walk than anywhere else we have been, including Luchenbach, TX. At irregular intervals, staircases rise from the sidewalk to pedestrian bridges to allow people to cross to the other side of the Strip. We walked up on one of the bridges and took a few photos. They are not too clear because of long exposure times and the vibration of the bridge. Looking north:

Looking south:

We headed south along the Strip to the MGM Grand Hotel. There were a number of strange characters along the way. Unfortunately, it was too crowded to photograph them. We were offered free tickets to events, offered free rides to parties, were assailed by buskers with their amplified instruments and much more. By the time we reached the MGM Grand, my wife's knee was causing significant pain.

Inside the MGM Grand, we found the Rainforest Cafe. This chain restaurant serves good food, expensively priced, in an atmosphere simulating a rainforest. Along the walls are animitronic animals - gorillas, zebras, monkeys, birds and so forth, who move and call at regular intervals. This meal cost us ... (ouch!!)

After dinner, the children had to walk back to the hotel and get the car. My wife's knee was too painful to walk on.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sequoia National Park

After breakfast at the Black Bear Diner, we rolled up California 99 to Sequoia National Park.

Once off the state highway, the road to Sequoia NP is a paved rural road leading to the Ash Mountain Entrance to the park. Thanks to the "Old Fogey Pass," we got in for free. After stopping at the visitor's center, we headed up Generals Highway. This is one of the main roads in the park, heading us up to the "big trees."

We stopped at the Giant Forest Museum and wandered through it. While at the museum, we learned that during the 1920s, many visitor amenities were added near and in the sqquoia groves, including cabins, tent sites, restaurants and more. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that these damaged the ability of the forest to allow new sequoias to grow. Fire is a necessary part of the sequoia life cycle and fire had to be supressed where buildings are located. In recent years, most of these buildings, along with their requsite utilities, have been removed.

Aftwards, we hiked the trail to the meadow.

While in the meadow, we saw a female bear with three cubs. Single cubs are most common and twins happen sometimes. Triplets are unusual, however.

At the south end of the meadow, there is a pair of trees that started so close together, that as they grew, their bases fused into one base.

Sequoia NP has many, many hiking trails, most of them being backcountry trails. We wished we had more time to spend hiking the various trails.

Later, along Generals Highway, we saw the same mama bear with her three cubs.

We left the park on California 180 looking for a place to stay. Unlike some of the other national parks, there are virtually no accommidations between the park entrance and the nearby towns. We finally found food and lodging in Fresno, CA.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

On the Road, Again - On to Bakersfield, CA

We hit the road again. It is time for the return journey. We started north on Interstate 5 to Bakersfield, CA. Bakersfield is north of Los Andeles and inland from the Pacific Ocean. The area around it is mostly farmland, dotted with many oil wells. This is September - harvest season for southern California. The primary crops seem to be grapes, corn and soy beans. However, I found it very sad to see many fallow fields that obviously were not planted this year and often probably not for the past year or two. Some sprouted signs reading either "Water = Jobs" or "Water = Food." A short discussion with one of the locals revealed that these fields are fallow because of water restrictions. The California water authorities have decided to restrict water for farming to allow Los Angeles to have green lawns, car washes and other water wasting amenities.

For dinner, we stopped at the Black Bear Diner in Bakersfield. This is a chain restaurant with currently sixty-three locations. The food was very good and the service quick.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Arizona Stupidity

The State of Arizona has really ticked me off. My children were issued drivers licenses by the State of Texas while they were younger than 21. The State of Texas issued licenses which were valid for six years and chose to issue them formatted vertically instead of horizontally. As these licenses do not expire upon or immediately after the driver turns 21, they are accepted as a valid driver's license and state issued identification card by the Transportation Safety Administration, airlines, car rental agencies and so forth in every state we have traveled in. According to Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, this is how it should be:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records and Judicial Proceedings of every other State; ...
This is why birth certificates, death certificates, auto registrations, driver's licenses and so forth, issued by one state, are accepted by all other states.

On this last trip, while traveling through Arizona, we were informed in several places that due to a recently passed state law, my children's driver's licenses could not be accepted. Since it was longer than one month after their 21st birthday, the State of Arizona would not, and businesses in the State cf Arizona could not, accept their driver's licenses as valid simply because they were formatted vertically instead of horizontally. I see this as an egregious violation of their Constitutional rights!

What gives the State of Arizona the right to declare another state's valid documents invalid for any reason? Can you imagine flying to another state for business or vacation and trying to rent a car only to be told that the state you landed in does not consider your birth certificate or driver's license valid because of its format? What if, to commemorate the one hundred and twentieth anniversary of joining the Union, the State of Utah chose to issue driver's licenses in the shape of Utah?

How does the State of Arizona get away with this crap? This law is aimed solely at young people. They are so used to having their rights stompped on by different levels of government, they just do not know any better. In high school history class, they never read or studied the text of key American documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the first ten amendments, called the Bill of Rights. How many of them understand that the "Miranda Warning" they hear on the TV crime dramas are based on Ammendment VI to the Constitution? The lofty words of the Constitution are just not relevant to their lives. Ask a high school student or recent graduate what Freedom of Speech or Freedom of Religion or Freedom of the Press means and most often, you will be greeted by a blank stare.

I hope a good test case arises and the the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has the guts to help the victim take the State of Arizona to Court.

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

To Grandmother's House We Go.....

In Barstow, we grabbed breakfast and headed south on Interstate 15 and on to my mother-in-law's house.

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From Lake Havasu AZ to Barstow CA

From our hotel at Lake Havasu, AZ, we walked to the London Bridge plaza and then over London Bridge. The London Bridge plaza is a group of London-themed buildings below the eastern end of the bridge. Wikipedia has an article about the bridge and its move to Arizona here. The picture below is from that article.

On the island side of the bridge, we stopped at one of my wife's favorite restaurants for breakfast, the Makai Cafe. We have stopped there so often that the staff recognizes us! The highlight of their breakfast menu is their huge selection of Eggs Benedict variations, everything from the traditional Eggs Benedict to salmon, veggie and crabcake "Benedicts." Any of them is worth the stop. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week.

After a little shopping, we drove back up Arizona 95, turned west in Interstate 40 and across the Mojave Desert to Barstow, CA. We got there in time for dinner. As it was the last meal on this leg of our vacation, we chose the Idle Spurs Restaurant. Repudedly, this is the best steakhouse in Barstow and, after tasting the food, I agree.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Onward From Flagstaff With Stile

After Flagstaff, we planned to go to the Arizona Snowbowl and ride the scenic chairlift (in the winter, the skilift). When we got there, it was closed for maintenance until September 15.

We traveled on and pulled in at a small park in the Coconino National Forest. It had a nature trail, the Kendrick Park Watchable Wildlife Trail. It is an easy hiking trail with signs that described the local forest and wildlife. The map below is from the USDA Forest Service brochure.

Most of the trees were Ponderosa Pine and Quaking Aspen. The local deer like to rub the velvet off of their antlers on the smaller trees, mostly the aspens. This damages the relatively thin bark of the aspens, often causing major wounds and sometimes killing the tree. To allow the aspens to recover, a grove of aspens were fenced off with a "deer proof" fence. There is a maintenance trail off of the loop which leads to this grove. The stile in the photograph below is where this maintenance trail crosses a fence.

We headed west on Interstate 40 to Williams, AZ, where we stopped for lunch in a Route 66 themed restaurant.

From Williams, we drove west on Interstate 40 through Kingman, then heading south on Arizona 95 to Lake Havasu, AZ. When we travel through Arizona, we always stop there. From the eastern shore, London Bridge crosses to an island. This is the real London Bridge. It was bought, disassembled and shipped from London, England, then reassembled here in the Arizona desert. Just across the bridge on the left is one of my wife's favorate restaurants for breakfast, the Makai Cafe. They have more versions of Eggs Benedict than anywhere else I have ever been.

For dinner, we stopped at Rosati's Pizza. We were greeted as old friends. The make a Chicago-style pizza that is out of this world! Yes, we know it is a chain restaurant, but we usually have dinner there because they are open much later than most other Lake Havasu restaurants.

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