Monday, September 15, 2014

The Last Leg and Back to Reality

After breakfast, we got on Interstate 40 eastbound. Tomarrow, I have to be at work. My children have had enough road trip for now. My wife, however, really does not want to go home yet. We must, however, as there are animals to feed and we are running out of money for this trip.

Just before the Texas border, we stopped at Russell's Truck and Travel Center in Glen Rio, NM. This, like any other travel center, has a fuel and a restaurant. It also has an automobile museum that is the size of half of a football field. Here are a pair of images from their web site:

Along the walls of the room are display cases filled with toy cars and trucks and other auto-related paraphenalia. In the center of the room are two long islands filled with automobiles and trucks, from a Model T truck through a modern Corvette.

Here is one of the more whimisical items:

From here, we just cut into Texas and got on US 283 until it intersected with US 190, then onto home. Another vacation comes to an end.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Four Corners Monument

From Winslow, AZ, we rolled east on Interstate 40, looking for breakfast. It was Sunday, and nothing was open in Winslow. We found breakfast at a "hole-in-the-wall" restaurant in Holbrook, AZ. Good, standard fare - nothing to write home about. After breakfast, we headed north on Indian Route 6 into Navajo country. When we met up with State Highway 264, we headed east to US 191. From there, we headed north to connect with US 160 eastbound to the Four Corners Monument.

From Holbrook up to Four Corners, it was all semi-arid agricultural land, mostly given over to ranching. Houses were spread well apart in clusters of two or three. Most were modern homes. Occasionally, we saw a traditional Navajo hogan. We also noticed that street signs for the side roads were strangely lacking.

The Four Corners Monument is the only place in the United States where four states meet. These are Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Over the years, these has been some dispute as to whether the location is correct. Last year's bruhaha is described here. The reality is of little importance: this is where the monument is.

The photo above is from the National Traveler web site. The two below are ours.

The monument is first, a National Geodetic Survey (NGS) marker which marks the official location. Around this marker a large concrete plaza has been built. Surrounding the plaza is a circular brick structure which is divided into stalls for vendors. Outside of this structure is the parking lot and space for vendors to set up their portable stores and supply trailers. To be sucinct, this is a tourist trap operated as a Najavo Nation park. Yes, there is an entrance fee and currently, only cash is accepted. Still, it is worth the stop, at least once in a lifetime.

We spent much longer than we planned at the monument, wandering past the vendors' stalls and just plain people-watching. Tourists from several countries were there, most notably from Japan, Germany, England and Austria. As the sun started to lower in the West, we headed out with my daughter driving on a route that took her through all four states before we headed south toward Interstate 40 again.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

The North Rim of Grand Canyon

We started at the Jacob Lake Inn. When I got up and looked out the window on the balcony (yes, the room had a balcony!!), I saw a deer and a fawn about fifty yards from the building. Of course, by the time I got my camera, they were gone! After breakfast in the dining room, we rolled south on State Highway 67 to Grand Canyon National Park.

The Colorodo River, which runs through the bottom of Grand Canyon, splits the park into two major areas: the south rim and the north rim. Most people only visit the south rim, with its easy access by road or by the Grand Canyon Railway. The north rim, which is only accessible via State Highway 67, is much less visited.

After passing the gatehouse, we did the obvious and headed for the visitors center. In most national parks, the visitors center is right after the gatehouse. Here you had to drive right to the rim area. This is also the site of the historic The ranger station has its own maps for the north rim.

The Bright Angel Point Trail

From the ranger station, we walked along the rim to the Bright Angel Point Trail. This starts from the south end of the lodge's parking lot. It is an easy, paved trail with a few short sets of steps. The photographs below show vistas from the trail.

This photo shows a section of the trail in the foregrund.

On the way back from Brught Angel Point, we took the a fork in the trail. Instead of leading us to the parking lot, it took us to the Grand Canyon Lodge. This picture shows a staircase that leads to an observation area below the main lounge of the Lodge.

Vista Encantada

After we got back into the car, we headed down the road toward Point Imperial and Cape Royal. When we reached the fork in the road, we decided to take the trail to Cape Royal first. Along the way, there are a number of scentic overlooks. Vista Encantada is the first one.

Roosevelt Point

Roosevelt Point, of course, is named after President Rooseveldt. No, not the rich socialist, Franklyn Delano. It is named after the naturalist and individualist, Theodore Roosevelt! It was Throdore who created the national parks system that we are enjoying today! The other Rooseveldt could not see beyond the next election and the politics of Europe.

Indian Ruins Parking

According the the plaque here, the native americnas placed their summer homes up here on the rim because it was cooler. Down in the valley in the center of this photo are their farm plots and winter homes.

If you look at just right of and below the center of the photograph, you will see a patch of blue. This is "Angel's Window" in the distance.

The Cape Royal Trail

At the end of the road is a large, unpaved parking lot that serves as the trail head for the Cape Royal Trail and the Wedding Chappel Trail. The latter leads to a glade that overlooks the canyon and has been the site of numerous weddings.

Angel's Window

This is a viewing point on the Cape Royal Trail. It gives a closer veiw of the same hole in the rock, called "Angel's Window," as the previous photograph.

Later, along the Cape Royal Trail, there a a branch off to the right that will take you to the top os the "Angel's Window" outcrop.

Cape Royal

Cape Royal is at the end of the trail. There is a great panaramic view that I do not have the equipment to photograph.

Point Imperial

Back on the road again, we headed toward the turnoff to Point Imperial. Once we got there, we looked at the time and realized that Point Imperial would have to wait for our next trip to the North Rim. Our time here had run out.

Time to Go

As our time had run out, we got back on State Highway 67 and headed for the entrance gate. At Jacob Lake, we turned off of State Highway 67 and onto US 89A. We crossed the Colorado River at Najavo Bridge. The plan - at end of 89A, take 89 north to Page, AZ and spend the night there. Unfortunately, the road was closed, supposedly due to a landslide. We had to take 89 south toward Falgstaff, AZ.

Heading south on US 89, there were no motels until we got near Flagstaff. Those we found all had their "No Vacency" signs lit. We talked to a few front desk clerks and the reply was always the same: it's summer and weekends book out quick.

We rolled east on Interstate 40 and tried Winslow, AZ. We found a room at the same Econo Lodge we stayed in on the outbound leg over a week earlier!. They remembered us and even gave us a "manager's frequent guest" discount.

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


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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