Driving Away from the Dust Storm Towards the Wildfire

On Friday night, Mariah and Harry walked up and down the Las Vegas strip together for a while which gave Mariah a fairly good sense of the nightlife scene in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Sarah and I took a cab away from the center of things to a James Beard Foundation awarded Thai restaurant filled to the brim with young local residents. It was a satisfying evening for all.   The Bellagio boasts a Dale Chihuly glass lobby ceiling (titled: Flori di Como) that contains more than 2,000 individually hand-blown glass flower sculptures. It is massive. Though the individual flowers were beyond beautiful, when crowded together much of the the beauty was lost. I feel about that lobby ceiling, as I feel about the Bellagio as a whole, and the entire city of Las Vegas. It is too big, too noisy, too gaudy, too in your face, too messy, too vulgar, too crowded, too ostentatious, too pushy, too unhealthy, too cheap, too artificial, too pathetic, too desperate and too everything else.  Las Vegas is so not my cup of tea.  Paradoxically, Mariah, Sarah and I planned to have afternoon tea together at the Petrossian Lounge in the Bellagio yesterday afternoon. We read about their high tea service months ago. It was advertised as an ideal family friendly activity. It turns out, however, that a newish Nevada State law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 to enter a bar, even if that […]

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104 in the Shade

Last night Mariah, Harry and I spent the night in Nevada at a classic, independent hotel just a few miles from the Hoover Dam that time forgot. We slept late and toured the Dam midday. As everyone says, it truly is an engineering marvel. It is difficult to imagine today, but they actually completed the project ahead of schedule and under budget. The magnitude of the project was staggering. Concluding in 1936, more than 5,000 men worked around the clock 363 days a year for five years to build the dam. Like Mount Rushmore, it could have never been created in today’s political and social climate because of the environmental impact, the risk to life and limb incurred by the laborers who built it and the cost. It is something to behold. After the tour, we rented a 22 Foot Bennington Pontoon boat and Harry drove us around Lake Mead. It was really neat to see the Dam from the lake side after having just viewed it from the opposite perspective. Lake Mead’s water level is down more than forty feet, exposing large discolored areas of the vertical rock walls that are usually submerged. The differentiation in the color of the newly exposed rock is obvious in the photographs that follow. Our unimpressive Hertz GPS determined that the marina where we had parked our car was smack in the middle of the lake. In this rare instance, the GPS had […]

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Not According to Plan

Last night we had dinner, or rather, we dined at El Tovar. El Tovar is to the Grand Canyon what The Old Faithful Inn is to Yellowstone Park. Storied, historic, imposing, gorgeous in a “lots of oversized dark wood” way, and a real indulgence. Their lobby is adorned with mounted trophy elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose and buffalo. Harry looked at home there. Our dinner was delicious and the surroundings were a blast.   This morning Mariah, Harry and I left our hotel slathered in sunscreen, prepared to tour the Grand Canyon and enjoy a bit of hiking away from the crowds. Months ago, I reserved a guide with a highly rated local company. They promised to supply all of our needed equipment, water, snacks, a light lunch and lots of information about what we would be seeing while we were together. The highlight of our day would be a one hour hike on a lightly utilized trail customized to their client’s skill level. I reserved what they described as their least challenging hike, a one hour beginner’s hike.        Of course, the Grand Canyon is majestic, stunning and awe-inspiring. It is wider, longer, deeper, and more of everything in person than the best photographs depict or the most descriptive writing conveys. Mariah will post her favorite subset of her photographs of the Canyon as soon as she conquers the technological glitches that have been plaguing her […]

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A Study in Contrasts

After emerging from Kokopelli’s cave, we drove to Sedona, Arizona. Along the way, the landscape changed from open fields to dense National Forests to expansive vistas with imposing red rock formations. (I cannot get over the sight of thousands of acres of lush, dense National Forests all over the place.) Sedona reminded me of Vail. Both areas are at the epicenter of astounding natural beauty. Like Vail, Sedona is prosperous, thriving and overflowing with high end retail, restaurants and service providers catering to the affluent. Though we regrettably only stayed in Sedona overnight, we slept at a lovely bed and breakfast in a beautiful room that was practically on top of their iconic rock formations. Photographs from our bedroom window are attached below. It was an impossibly beautiful view.  We left Sedona to drive to the Hopi Cultural Center in Kykotsmovi, Arizona. Our Hertz-provided GPS was evidently unaware of the location of this sizable Native American reservation. We followed a circuitous route, almost doubling our travel time, before finally arriving. (Note to the United States Defense Department: remove the GPS units from all of the Hertz rental cars and ship them to governments hostile to the United States. The recipient nations would be lost forever).   We met our guide, Gary, who showed Mariah, Harry and me around the Hopi reservation for four hours in his somewhat worse-for-wear SUV. Gary’s mother was Hopi, his father was Navajo and he served […]

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All The Places We Didn’t Have Time to Describe¬†

Mariah and I have not had enough time or decent Internet service to blog about some of the wonderful places we visited since we left Yellowstone National Park last week.  So to help us keep track of where we have been but not yet written about – here is a summary of our recent itinerary and all of the places we plan to describe as soon as we have the time and a really good internet connection. As you may recall, after we left Yellowstone on Thursday, July 9, we drove to Utah and visited the Dinosaur National Monument. (A post about that experience was published a day or so ago.)   The next day, Friday, July 10, we drove to Mesa Verde, Colorado to visit two exquisite sites. In the late morning we toured Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab, Utah. We followed that tour with a late afternoon drive through Arches National Park. The following day, on Saturday, July 11, we toured the Ancestral Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park with a park ranger. That night we drove to Monument Valley, Utah and slept in a more-primitive-than-we-expected Navajo Hogan in Oljato, Utah. On Sunday, July 12, we had an incredible private tour of the Navajo Nation Monument Valley Park.   The night of July 12, (last night), we slept in Kokopelli’s cave in Farmington, New Mexico. (The post about the cave was just published). It is […]

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About Last Night

San Juan County, New Mexico must be a very tough place to live. During a quick pit stop at their McDonalds (which was the only place that appeared to serve food in town), I was greeted at the door by a formidable, armed, private security guard. Abandoned and dilapidated trailers lined the roads, comprising the majority of the area’s visible housing units. A disgruntled resident expressed their sentiments on a sign affixed atop abandoned real estate. It seemed representative of the community’s mindset. Poverty was rampant. Billboards about domestic abuse resources and the perils of drug addiction outnumbered other advertising. We drove through this unforgiving environment to rendezvous with a woman named Gayle, waiting for us in a parking lot of an abandoned sports facility. I had been in communication with her disembodied voice since January, when I made one of my first overnight reservations for our trip, to reserve the property she managed for last night’s single night’s stay. Mariah, Harry and I met and followed Gayle through a mile or two of back country roads and then several more miles of unpaved, barely passable, Bureau of Land Management dirt excuses for roads. We continued through a series of heavy gates, by signs on barbed wire-laden posts discouraging trespassers. It reminded me of the opening sequence at the start of every classic horror film. It dawned on me sometime shortly after we began driving on the dirt road that […]

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Dinosaurs Without Chris Pratt

The National Dinosaur Monument is seven miles south of Jensen, Utah. Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, for miles and miles in all directions is dinosaur-focused. The entire region incorporates the word dinosaur or a play on the word dinosaur into the names of virtually all of their shops, products, signage etc. There are dinosaur-themed restaurants, clothing stores, pawn shops, trailer parks, motels, feed stores, liquor stores, bars, souvenir shops, gas stations, and more. You name it, they have it. There is even a small town called Dinosaur. By the time Mariah, Harry and I drove to the National Monument, we were half-expecting an animatronic dinosaur and not much else. The last time I recalled this much hype may have been the hundreds of miles of signage for “South of the Border”, a tourist trap in South Carolina I encountered on a college road trip from Philadelphia to Florida in the late 1970’s.  Much to our relief, the monument was exceedingly cool. After a short shuttle ride from their visitor center, the bones from more than 1,500 dinosaurs dating from the late Jurassic period are visible, in situ, embedded in a massive wall of rock. A two-level exhibit hall was built to enclose the quarry wall, which included specified areas where visitors could actually touch 149 million year old dinosaur bones. It is remarkable to see the partially exposed, jumbled remains of dinosaurs just as they were when they were […]

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About Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park exceeded all of Mariah, Harry and my highest expectations and overwhelmed all of our senses. Our three day visit was surprising, exciting, awe-inspiring, gratifying, educational and comforting. It also made me feel wildly fortunate and patriotic. Yes, definitely. Patriotic.  Being at Yellowstone reminded me of every yellow-bordered National Geographic magazine that ever arrived in our mailbox wrapped in plastic. It brought back my memory of nature posters stapled to the immense cork bulletin boards in my science classes. My parents brought my three older siblings and me to Yellowstone in the 1960’s. I remember sitting in the backward facing third seat of our car, squished next to our luggage, watching the scenery recede as we drove around the park. I also remember my dad’s hand firmly gripping mine as we walked along the boardwalks along the geyser basins. It was wonderful to return as an adult and a parent. I said a little thank you to my father for keeping me out of harm’s way during my previous visit.  Like almost every one of their 3 million annual visitors, we saw just a fraction of the park. We drove most of the 142 mile grand loop, a figure eight that brings visitors near to the majority of the park’s well known features. The sheer size of the park is difficult to comprehend. The park contains 2.2 million acres. 99% of this area is completely pristine, undisturbed wilderness. […]

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Advanced Preparation

(Mariah and I are looking forward to posting about Yellowstone in the next few days. We need more bandwidth than we have to upload our images.) My favorite puzzles when I was very young were the wooden ones cut out into distinct shapes with small knobs on each of the pieces. The round knobs made it easier for my little fingers to grasp and insert the correct pieces into the corresponding cut out spaces. The preponderance of these puzzles were farm-themed. They were intended to help me and my toddler colleagues (I assume I had colleagues from an early age) develop fine motor skills and a vocabulary of nouns which none of my fellow suburban Philadelphia playmates required for our daily routines. Today, fifty plus years later, Harry, Mariah and I left Yellowstone in the morning and drove more than 450 miles from Wyoming through Idaho, back into Wyoming, and finally into Utah.  Despite never having been in Idaho or Utah before, I found myself very much at home because of my prior experience with those knobby wooden puzzles. Horses?  Yes.  Goats?  Check.  Cows?  Okey-dokey.  Sheep?  Gotcha.  Hay?  Right here.  Farm Equipment?  Definitely.  Chickens?  Oh yeah.  Railroad Crossing?  No worries.   Let’s hear it for early childhood education.                       

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Yellowstone Disconnect

We are visiting Yellowstone National Park for just three days. We will only see an incredibly small fraction of its 2.2 million acres. During our too short stay we will be virtually without wireless internet service. Once we have reluctantly returned to civilization, we will post about our adventures again. 

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