Monday, December 31, 2007

After we enjoyed our visit to Zion National Park, we headed to the Grand Canyon's south rim.

Our plan was to stay at Lake Powell but as we got closer and closer to the Lake we quickly had to change plans. The closer we got to Powell, the more aware we became of how much the area has changed since our last visit. What was once a lightly populated small town has boomed due to the rapid rise of prices in the Las Vegas and Phoenix areas and the continuing retirement of the Baby Boomers.

In addition to a pox of franchise-type development and sub-division fever, the air quality has deteriorated due to the emissions from the power plant, the increase in population and, what appeared to us, as a total disregard for maintaining the pristine high desert surrounding the Lake. In sort, the entire valley was filled with lung burning, air choking smog.

Our change of plans required pushing through to Cameron, AZ at the junction of 89 and 64. Once in Cameron we faced the issue of finding a "pet friendly" hotel; what we found instead was 1) overpriced, 2) so gross you wanted to sleep in your jeans, 3) so close to the highway intersection that you could hear the roar all night long, 4) had slabs instead of beds, 5) rooms coated in so much Febreeze that the wall paper had started to run. Mark and I couldn't bring ourselves to pay "that much money" for such a bad room. After an unsuccessful search, we elected to push on to the South Rim of the Canyon.

Here is where the excitement started. We made the turnoff onto the Grand Canyon highway around dusk. In the last hour of our drive, we began going through patches of thick fog; as we started up a hill we came very, very (VERY, VERY) close to hitting a full size bull Roosevelt Elk.

This beast was absolutely gorgeous and in his full winter glory, standing 6+ feet tall, weighing over 1000 pounds and having a 5-6 foot antler spread. The difficulty came in because of where he was the middle of the road, in the dark, in the fog, on a 2 -lane partially ice covered highway. We weren't speeding and Mark avoided hitting him, plus avoided jack-knifing the travel trailer (all 33 feet of it). The only negative outcomes were that Mark strained his wrist and we both had some heart palpitations from the close call. We were very lucky that there wasn't anyone coming toward us in the other lane, that we weren't speeding and that Mark was driving since my reflexes are much slower.

The next morning, I had a short conversation with an Arizona Highway Patrol Officer while in the line for breakfast. I told him what happened and he followed my story by asking a very interesting question, specifically, "Did you pull over?" I replied that we didn't and he then told me that it was a good thing since he has responded to several calls where someone had a near-miss with an elk, pulled over and then the elk attacked their vehicle. He said that they are very territorial during breeding season and will attack parked cars to defend their territory. Glad we missed out on that one.

The Canyon was amazingly beautiful and remains as gorgeous as it was on my first visit. Hope you enjoy the photos!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Photos from Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of my favorite places in the whole world. Every time I go, I think about that beautiful old song (Isaac Watts in 1707, refrain Robert Lowry) .

We’re marching to Zion,

Beautiful, beautiful Zion;

We’re marching upward to Zion,

The beautiful city of God.

I hope that my pictures help you experience the holiness of this wondrous place. It is frustrating for me to look at these, plus the other 200 I took, because Zion is so amazing that I feel like I've failed to capture even a tiny part of what my eyes and heart sees. Short of being reincarnated by Ansel Adams I don't think I have much choice but to keep practicing....


We spent today at the Grand Canyon (lots more photos there, too). Tonight we are in Gallup, New Mexico, if the weather and roads cooperate we're headed East tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Marching (driving) to Zion...

We arrived in Utah yesterday evening, safe and sound except for a small problem with an attempted break-in of our travel trailer. Some young adults tried to break into the travel trailer. Mark happened to be standing on the balcony of the hotel (too cold to use the travel trailer). He watched them for awhile then asked them what they were doing. The answer was that they were trying to figure out "how it works". Mark's attention sent them on their way. Next morning we discovered that they had cracked/broken the rock screen. We made a quick trip to the RV shop and got a repair kit. It isn't pretty but it won't break in two. That gives us time to order a replacement after we get back.

We are at the Cliff Rose in Springdale, Utah, right outside the gates of Zion Park. They were able to give us our favorite room, facing the river & the gorgeous red cliff. The same people own the property as when we started visiting here 15 years ago.

Today we will spread some of Wisdom's ashes. This was one of her favorite places. I'll share more about that later with some photos of the park.

The roads have been clear, the sun has been shining and it was 53 degrees yesterday! But, we have now traveled into the mountains and it will be in the 30s today. Please pray for our safe travel, we have been lucky with the storms staying in front of us but this next few days we will be between storms due to one waiting in the NW.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ahh, out of Washington State - finally

Trouble, trouble everywhere...especially at the Cost-Co Tire Shop. We had a sidewall flat right before we crossed the border. We drove, on our spare, to the first tire shop that had "our brand" of tires. On Tuesday night, I called the Cost-Co tire shop, spoke to the manager and he told me to be at the shop by 9:30 on Wednesday morning after I explained that I had a 2:15 p.m. appointment in Mukilteo. Because I had a 10:45 am eye appointment at the Cost-Co, Mark drew the straw of staying at the hotel with the doggies.

9:25 a.m. I arrived at the tire shop, the Manager assured me that they would be finished with the replacement between noon and 1:00, no problem. I checked back in with the tire shop at noon and guess what? They asked me to come back in an hour. 1:00 I went back to the shop (by this time I was very, very tired of wandering around in Cost-Co. At this point they told me that they were running late and it would be at least another 30 minutes.

They then told me that they were two technicians short handed - that would have been good to know earlier, when we could actually have a chance of doing something about it. Long story short...I missed my 2:15 appointment and didn't leave Cost-Co until 3:00. Poor Mark got kicked out of the hotel room (either that or pay for another night) and sat in the lobby for 3 hours will all of our bags and both dogs. The insult was that after we left the Bellingham Cost-Co we had to stop at the Burlington Cost-Co to pick up my meds for the next 2 months ($1881....YIKES).

Today went better, sort of. My appointment with Dr. Lawrence went better but then we had to endure the detour around the closed section of I-5. We left Dr. Lawrence's office at 10:30, drove through an hour long snow storm, and made it to the hotel in Cascade Locks by 6:00.

BUT - there were blessings in all of this. The tire "went flat" but didn't "blow-out". We had a spare. The Cost-Co had our tires. We safely made it through the snow storm. The traffic only got bad at the last interchange before the detour. We were able to get a great room at our favorite hotel in Cascade Locks. They gave us a discount at the hotel in Lynnwood (night before last) and tonight, too. I met a terrific pastor (non-denominational church in Vancouver) in the line-up at the tire center, had a terrific discussion and enjoyed a great fellowship with him while we waited.

Today the weather was leaden gray but, interestingly, the visibility was amazing even though the sky was cloudy, threatening and finally delivering snow. Hope you enjoy the photo. You can see miles and miles even though the sky is sodden with moisture.

Mark has started the Atkins diet for his presurgery prep. Can't believe that we are in the last two weeks of the countdown. This time, next year, he'll be 50 - 100 lbs. lighter. Wow! Will it be like getting a new and improved husband? I told Jessica at Dr. Lawrence's office, that I'm trading in the Pillsbury Dough Boy for a Stud Muffin (grin).

Blessings to all of you. Judy and Mark

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Lovely Evening

Our friends are holding us close right now. Last night we were invited to an evening with friends up the road, it was also our holiday kick-off party.

Jennifer made an amazing meal for us (Clarence took care of all the post-dinner clean-up). We had an unnamed predinner drink made from frozen fruit juice, red wine and rum! Wow! They were good but potent. I'm glad that I only had one or I would be paying the price today. Mark slurped down 2, as he worked on his 3rd I mentioned the rum; he stopped there.

Dinner was a Mediterranean lamb shank, oven roasted for 12 hours (it was so tender) with tomatoes, onions and lots of garlic; mashed potatoes - topped with toasted parmesan cheese; a chopped salad (cucumbers, red onion, yellow peppers, green olives, feta cheese in a lemon vinaigrette) and French style green beans. Even the beans were special, they were home grown this summer, hand cut into French style, blanched and frozen, then yesterday they were steamed & served with a bit of sea salt and butter. Then we had a fabulous dessert, a variation on flan, served with blackberries & whipped cream. WOW! What a treat.

After dinner, some nice conversation where we learned more about our friends' childhoods. We also talked about how we met and fell in in love since both couples are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year.

As inspiration for today's post, I'm including a photo of the beautiful view here on the Point. We are all lucky to live in such a picturesque place.