Sunday, May 22, 2011

The rest of the road trip

I stopped blogging after crossing into TX. Life got crazy; my drives got very long; and I was processing a ton while racing him to try to salvage the unsalvagable. I waited nearly a year to publish the blogs from "Kristie Week" and finally decided to do so because it's pretty much an accurate record of The Great Drive. Sadly the last week of my week was rushed and cut short. I did have an awesome time visiting Jamin, Jon, Allen and Chrissy. I wish that I'd blogged more about our shared experiences but I was honestly too distracted to do so. That said, I relished in the opportunity to rejuvenate these friendships and thank each of them for opening up their homes and schedules to my visit! The Great Drive was an epic experience and fulfillment of a lifelong dream! Thank you to everyone who made time to play a role in this epic experience! It would not have been possible without you! I would have fallen asleep, gone off the road, and died.

Carlsbad Caverns

Exhausted, we woke up about an hour later than we’d hoped. When we checked out of the hotel they gave out disgusting but filling pre-packaged glazed baked goods. Our late departure delayed our arrival at Carlsbad Caverns a bit but it may have actually worked out well since we discovered an opening on one of the tours. I knew Kristie really wanted to get to Oklahoma City today to see Richard and hang out with him so I was impressed when she jumped at the opportunity for a guided tour because I knew that would delay our arrival that evening. In a way that made me feel like things were healed a bit from last night and that she was interested in exploring with me.

We really did have a blast on the tour. This included a visit to remote areas of the cave and even a blackout in which we experienced total darkness and silence. It was so dark that you could not detect any movement of your hands right in front of your face. According to our guide, this was only possible deep in caverns and in ocean trenches. What a life experience! We also saw a ton of stalactite and stalagmite formations. It was spectacular. Following our tour, we explored the big room, which was larger than four football fields. There were awesome formations as well as a place called bottomless pit, and even a chapel like formation. Carlsbad was incredibly impressive. It was formed by sulfuric acid and water eating away at the remains of a coral sea. Then, years of water eroding and passing through the surface down into the caverns created enormous stalactite and stalagmite formations. There is also a natural flow of air through the caverns. This is believed to form the unique popcorn stalactite formations that abound in the cavern. The cave was discovered and explored by a 16 year old. He journeyed over 800 feet below the surface by candlelight and lantern light. Quite impressive compared to the lives of 16 year olds approximately 100 years later.

When we got to the surface Kristie called Richard to let him know we were hitting the road. In a very odd situation, he had previously offered to drive 5 hours out towards our approaching route and to meet us at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo Texas. Kristie then made plans to drive with Richard in his car the five hours back to his place and for me to follow them or meet them at his place. I found the whole situation perplexingly weird but went along with it because it seemed to be something that Kristie wanted.

As we left New Mexico, we stopped to take a picture with the Texas state sign. Below the sign it stated “Drive Courteously. It’s the Texas way.” Kristie took that to heart and really cut down her speed from New Mexico as we traversed a small narrow farm road (with a speed limit of 70) along the TX border with NM. Well it was a good thing she did! About an hour into Texas, we were passed in the other direction by a TX Ranger. He then proceeded to casually turn around, and come back in our direction to pull us over.

Roswell and White Sands

Good Morning! Or perhaps we could describe this as bad morning. The camera is shot. We tried to get it to work this morning and it does not focus, does not flash, and turns off. This is not a good thing. A quick check of best buy locations finds one in Las Cruces, NM. This is basically on our path but still a bit out of the way. We need to stop to get this fixed though. I thought our best approach might be for Kristie to wear her tank top and short sweat shorts so that the geek at Best Buy might be more attentive to our problems. Hopefully this works! After about 2 hours we arrived at Best Buy. The guy paid a lot of attention but was not as helpful as we’d wanted. He said that they’d have to send out the camera to get serviced and could not provide us with a replacement. Furthermore, they can only ship it out if you can pick it up at the same location as you dropped it off. This made Las Cruces pretty impossible. Thankfully he suggested we buy a camera and return it when we got back for a full refund. So maybe the sexy trick worked a bit at least!

By now it was pretty much lunchtime, especially since we skipped breakfast. It was time for the highly anticipated (and slightly disappointing) stop at the Pizza Hut lunch buffet. Ah highly filling Yum food. Then a bit of ice for the cooler and back on the road… this time towards White Sands. The GPS crapped out again and made it a bit of a challenge to find the road, but there was no way we were returning to Best Buy again and risking a lost afternoon and cutting out stops… especially because this was one of the highlights of Kristie’s trip… Roswell! But first – White Sands… We wound through a mountain pass and could observe a huge thunderstorm to our left. Then we descended into an incredibly flat valley. Here we drove right into a US Border Control checkpoint. A bit odd since it’s literally 150 miles away from the nearest border. But I get the idea, they are looking for drug runners. When you arrive, you’re greeted with about 20 cameras recording every angle of your car. Then you approach a guard who gives you an interrogation that’s more difficult than when you cross back from Canada. After that we were back on our way. This made us pretty happy since it would have taken at least an hour for them to search our stuffed to the brim car. After we left there, it occurred to Kristie that this might be a bit of a violation of our civil rights since, after all, we were Americans in America traveling on a public road who were being stopped and questioned without cause. Hilarity, which can be found on the video, ensued.

When we arrived at White Sands, we didn’t really know what to expect. I think we’d both say we were pretty impressed. Basically, there are nearly bleach white sand dunes as far as the eye can see. They’ve paved a bit of a road in and the rest is literally snow (ok maybe sand) plowed. We found a cool spot to climb on the dunes and take some pictures. As soon as you exit the car you find that this is not beach sand. It’s very hard packed and a bit wet. It sticks to your shoes like cement. I think it literally made me about an inch taller. We climbed up the dune and took some really fun pictures. I tried (multiple times) to get pictures of Kristie suspended in the air jumping on the dune. She also made a sand angel which was pretty awesome! I don’t know why but I was not in a really fun or creative mood. Rather I was pretty mellow and I’m pretty sure that the pictures of me will kind of reflect that. This was a short stop which we actually added on when we readjusted our schedule this morning. I think we were only here for about 15 minutes. It would be a fun place to come back to and go for a hike. You can actually hike back to some dunes which border a lake. I think the white dunes on the blue water would be pretty spectacular.

On the road again, we started jetting towards Roswell. It started to thunder and pour. Soon, I was exhausted and had to call make a call to the bullpen. Thankfully Kristie was rested and ready to close out the trip to Roswell. We made good time and got there at about 3:45. Thankfully we made it with an hour and 15 minutes prior to closing. This place was the Holy Land to Kristie and I had a good time too. We took a ton of pictures and also checked out the newspaper clippings, radio reports, etc of the 1947 Roswell UFO Crash. One of the cool features is a world map in which visitors mark their location with a pushpin. Apparently it is cleared every 2 weeks and there were literally pins from every corner of the globe. There were also exhibits on UFO sightings from other areas of the globe. When the museum closed, we headed to the gift shop. There was a good deal of unique memorabilia and Kristie found $110 of once in a lifetime items to commemorate the visit with. It was a very cool stop!

Plus, with the museum closing at 5, we were able to get on the road in time to make the evening bat program at Carlsbad Caverns. Each night, tens of thousands of Mexican (Brazilian) bats fly out of the caverns at sunset to go out hunting for the night. It is supposed to be an amazing experience. Sadly, as you’ll find out soon, it was not meant to be. We passed a disgusting smelly town. I think it was called Artisan, NM. It was home to a giant oil refinery and probably one of the lowest life expectancies in America. Plus the local Sunoco only accepted cash – obviously evading taxes. Finally, starving, we found a Sonic! This was a first! And a fun first! Kristie accidentally ordered their double cheeseburger along with amazing onion rings. I got a hot dog and an ice cream that was way too large for both of us to consume. All in all a fun stop. While ordering, I quickly confirmed visit arrangements with Jamin over text message. The next part of the trip is falling into place. This is good since it’s only about 2 days away!

Carlsbad was about 45 minutes south of Sonic. We had to push to get there for the sunset program. Once we arrived at the park, the terrain changed promptly. It was BEAUTIFUL. There were huge fruiting Prickly Pear Cacti, towering Yucca flowers, and a ton of greenery. It was like we’d just moved from the desert to a tropical paradise. We’d later learn that this was because they’ve had a good deal of monsoon moisture (the most in 4 years) in the past month. The cavern entrance was over 10 miles into the park. We did not account for this so we drove as fast as possible and actually made it on time. When I pulled up to ask the ranger where the amphitheater was, we were disappointed to learn that it had been called off due to “lightning in the area” and that they were closing the park early. This was a huge letdown as few people make their way to Carlsbad, NM more than once in a lifetime. I guess this means that we’ll need to be a couple of those few!

We took a bit of a more leisurely pace leaving the park. We took a good amount of photos and were enjoying ourselves until Kristie spotted a GIANT spider on a plant right off from where we were standing. This cut short the rest of our sightseeing and we headed back into town. We did not have a hotel reservation and this has already led to problems on this leg of the trip. This evening was no different. We decided to pick a random motel since there were bad reviews of the Motel 6. This was not a good choice. The wifi did not work well at all and this set the tone for a pretty awful evening. Kristie really wanted to be able to use the internet, so I called the front desk and asked if they could switch our room to somewhere closer to the router. They refused and told us that the router was located near the pool in the back. Such a lie… we went back there to find no service as well. Kristie thinks that they are stealing wifi from a neighboring facility. I think she was right.

Things were really awkward in the hotel room that night for a variety of reasons. We had a bit of a blow out argument that pretty much ended in both of us crying and being angry. Not what you’d want to have happen on vacation, especially at this point in this vacation. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if either of us knew or realized exactly what we were doing during this argument. It was bad and damaging and regretful. I said a ton of things that I didn’t even mean or believe. For example, I made up excuses for why we should not have kids soon, even though I did want to get married and have children relatively soon. I don’t know why I said them except that I felt, threatened, attacked, jealous, and uneasy. I wish I could have taken them back or just remained silent. Going to bed that night was melancholy and awkward.

Mesa Verde, Aztec Ruins, and Truth or Consequences

I woke up wet this morning. Though I first attempted to blame it on Kristie going to the bathroom behind the tent last night, the reality was that we’d been rain gods and brought water to this drought ridden Mecca. The only problem is that I didn’t line the tent properly so the water had run under it and under me and made it and me wet. Somehow Kristie escaped unscathed. The tent was soaked. So, what we decided to do was leave it to dry while we take the tour. After stopping at the camp store to pick up a bite for breakfast, we drove to the Cliff Palace site. On the way, there was a good deal of construction.

I began telling Kristie about how it’s fun to talk to the people who stop traffic while you’re all waiting to be allowed to pass. As a child I had stopped and spoken with a guy on the Navajo reservation who was intrigued by my UCONN shirt and asked if I liked basketball. He ended up being an IAABO referee and it was a fun conversation. Back to today, we were the first people stopped at a paving site. The guy came up to us and asked if we happened to have an IPod charger. We did! So we charged his IPod for about 10 minutes while we waited and talked. Apparently he too finds it funny how many people stand around while others work on a site and he gave us impersonations and the like. When we gave him back slightly charged IPod, he dropped it on the pavement. I hope it still works!

We arrived early at the tour site, so we decided to loop around to try to see other ruins. We’re bad at this. We could not spot any of the ones that the signs told us were right there in front of us. When we started the tour, the guide appeared weird. She moved people off the rocks they were sitting on, made them stand, then stood on the rocks herself to address the crowd. We headed down into the Cliff Palace (and recorded most of the tour for posterity’s sake). There were some tight squeezes and it was quite fun to walk through these narrow passages. Once we got into the site, the two of us decided to hang back towards the edge of the group so that we could take the most pictures and go at our own pace. Basically all of the round buildings are religious buildings – sun, moon, stars, etc. The square buildings serve functions. Most of the round ones are called Kivas. It is believed that Cliff Palace was built communally buy the different tribes of Anasazi people as a shared religious center. That’s a really cool and advanced structure! As it turns out, our guide (ranger) was an adopted member of the Hopi people which are descendents of the Anasazi. I had always thought that Anasazi had disappeared but I guess that’s incorrect.

At the close of our tour we climbed up very narrow steps. To the right we could see where centuries of fingers and toes had worn the sandstone from scaling the steep cliffs. It was amazing. Then, we ascended two wooden ladders and completed the tour. Afterwards, we hiked about a mile out to get a perspective of the other large cliff dwelling. We saw a ton of lizards but again, no snakes. This was a bit of a tenuous walk because we did not have bottled water in the car to carry with us and it was very hot and dry out. Thankfully we were able to make it and we were sure to rehydrate when we got back to camp.

As we were approaching our tent site, a baby deer jetted right in front of the car. Thankfully Kristie slammed on the breaks and we JUST MISSED hitting the thing. It was an amazing close call. All I could see were the Bambi spots. The tent came down quickly and then Kristie bought a bunch of souvenirs and then we were off to Truth or Consequences, NM.

One of the souvenirs that Kristie bought was a 1000 Places To See Before You Die in the USA and Canada book. We were happy to have not died hitting the deer a few minutes prior and decided to look through the book and highlight everywhere that we’d both been. We’d like to make a bucket list of sorts of cool places in the book that we can travel to together. I, of course, loved this idea! We were also excited to be hitting some of those places in the coming days. One place that we discovered in the book was called Aztec Ruins. It appeared to be near our route for the day. In fact, it was ON our route. We had to stop. This was a very interesting site which was run by the National Park Service. Different tribes had occupied it at different times in history. A cool historical linkage of the day came from the fact that some of the people who inhibitated this site were Anazasi and that they brought some of the construction materials over 40 miles from the Mesa Verde area.

We stopped quickly to pick up some bread sticks at Pizza Hut and then hit the road for the 7:30 drive down to Truth or Consequences, NM. We decided to stay here because of the hot springs and the cool name. We stayed at Riverbend Motel and Hot Springs. A few cool things about this place. They gave us a two room suite for $90. This included unlimited time in the hot spring baths. What a cool place. Oh wait did I already say that? When we arrived the person who checked us in was from Rhode Island. She was very, very, very excited that the Maniacs had arrived. In fact she was so excited that she talked to us for about 30 minutes before checking us in. She referred us to a very nice Italian restaurant in the center of (and out of place in) Truth or Consequences. This place was chic. It felt like you walked out of a small run down Mexican town, and into mid-town Manhattan. I liked that they gave us fresh olives along with our bread. Plus, they had pesto! Tremendous! A bit pricey but still great. When we got back to the room, we quickly changed into our bathing suits and headed out to soak in the mineral hot springs. We started in the coolest – 101 degrees. It felt great, especially since the air outside was cooling off. I ran to get each of us a beer from the cooler but was stopped on my return by our friendly host from Rhode Island who instructed me that both glass and alcohol are prohibited in the soaking areas. Oh well, worth a try I guess. After soaking a bit more, we moved up in warmth trying some of the other pools. Finally we hit the 110 degree pool. Wow that is hot. It feels good but it is so hot! While in here, we got into a long conversation with our friend from Rhode Island. We were curious why she moved here and how she discovered it here. It turns out that she has lyme disease and her doctor, for some reason, told her that she needed to move somewhere dry and warm. So she looked for places that she and her husband could work and live in an RV (yes an odd combo we did not ask about) and discovered this place. She’s been working here for about 4 years now I guess.

To cool off we went into the 100 degree tub again and then to cool off even more (maybe too much) I went down the steps into the Rio Grande. It was chilly at first. Then Kristie asked me to hold on for a second so she could get some (pretty cool) photos and it became freezing! We hung out in the tubs for a really relaxing evening. Once we got back in the room we noticed that there was water in the camera. This is never good – even in a waterproof camera. Hopefully this dries out by tomorrow! Then, though I wanted to stay up, I passed out basically as soon as my body hit the bed.

Navajo Day

On paper, today was probably the least exciting day of the Kristie segment. It involved over 8 hours of driving. However it did not turn out terribly. Before heading into the Navajo Reservation, I stopped to pick up some seltzer for Kristie at the gas station just outside of the reservation. The reservation is dry – they don’t sell alcohol. Well this place was not. It was 9:00 AM. I hate stereotypes but, there were 3 people in front of me and their orders went like this: 30 rack of coors, 30 rack of bud, and 12 pack of Mikes Hard. Stereotypes are generally bad, but this was like a walking stereotype.

Back on the road we wound up a steep road that challenged my Prius battery again and we climbed up the Vermillion Cliffs. After about an hour we found food. Kristie was starving and thanks to the odd time zones in Arizona we were able to get her to a Burger King just in time to catch the last of the French toast sticks. Then we stopped by the Glen Canyon Dam. This is one of the most controversial projects since the rising waters destroyed renowned beautiful canyon with a ton of archeology when the cam was completed. However, the dam is impressive. They had a neat visitor’s center. One of the rangers was operating a telescope so we could view sun spots. Sadly the sun went away when we realized this but it was still fun to talk to her about them!
Our big destination for the day was Monument Valley. We drove north on the reservation and even briefly re-entered Utah before arriving. Monument Valley is where many of the Western movies of the mid-20th Century were filmed. It’s a cool looking place with huge red spires surrounded by pretty much nothing. There was an option to drive a 17 mile dirt loop road to check out all of the spires close up but we decided against it since the Prius has a low clearance. We took some pretty nice pictures, including one from Ansel Adam’s famed photography site. There was also an interesting Navajo history museum. This park is considered a sacred site for them. One of the funnier signs we saw instructed us to ask permission to photograph a native person and to be sure to provide gratuity to them. As you can guess, we did not take part in either of these activities. There was a gigantic gift shop in the museum and I found peace pipes which I thought Kristie might want to get as a gift for Richie. She did and even got 40% off – which I think is a continuously running sale. Then we hit the road again towards Ship Rock, New Mexico.

On the way we encountered something crazy… a huge dump truck being transported in pieces on the road. There were lead and chase vehicles which pushed all of the traffic (including us) off the road. This thing was gigantic and the whole process just seemed dangerous. I took a picture. When we arrived at ship rock, it looked kind of cool but nothing like a ship. After a while of gazing, Kristie pointed out that it did look like a sinking ship. That actually made visual sense to me as well. Perhaps that’s why it is called ship rock. After a brief stop at Taco Bell, we headed north toward Colorado. This was the ugliest crossing sign I’ve seen since it was tagged with gang graffiti. It also was brown and white but exclaimed “Welcome to Colorful Colorado.” A bit of an oxymoron for sure. On the other side there was a very nice sign welcoming travelers to the Navajo reservation. We also got a picture with that sign for the X-Files theme segment of the trip.

Approaching dark, we arrived at Mesa Verde National Park. The campground had availability – thank God! We also were able to purchase our tickets for the Cliff Palace tour for tomorrow morning. This was one of the few things on the whole trip so far that required cash. I had to scrounge up change from the car to pay for it. This was the first night that Kristie camped on this trip – excluding that terrible night of sleeping in the car at Great Basin National Park. We set up the tent, built a campfire, and tried some local beers. I must admit that Corona would have been a better choice as this micro brew was not so good. The winds were whipping which made me a bit nervous as I used the park newspapers to start the wood on fire. They were blowing everywhere, half lit, and into the dry grass which had not seen rain in over 2 weeks. We actually watched an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm by the campfire. Not many people can say they’ve done that! Then we headed to bed.

The Grand Canyon

We got an early start this morning and headed south towards the Grand Canyon. Shortly we hit the Arizona border and shortly thereafter began climbing. We reached a scenic overlook where Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders once stood. It was at this site, according to the roadside sign, that he decided to set aside all the land in his sights, quadrupling the amount of lands preserved originally. We also first encountered the Navajo artists who were selling their art at different rest areas across the vast area surrounding and in their reservation.

As we approached the Grand Canyon, we wound our way through the remains of a gigantic forest fire. It had to be at least 30-40 miles long and stretched on both sides of the road almost as far as we could see. It’s amazing to think of the power of these fires. It was also a pretty recent fire as there was not very much new growth emerging yet. After the fire zone, the road becomes perfectly beautiful. You drive on the edge of a natural meadow with a tiny stream flowing through it. On the edges of the meadow are the cutest small Christmas trees which slowly fade into a forest that looks a lot like the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The North Rim has one of the more rustic welcome signs. After waiting what seemed like a week and a day for Cousin Eddy and his wife to finish taking pictures of the sign, their car, the scenery, us, more of the sign, more of each other, etc…. we finally had the chance to take our picture with the sign. As always it was worth the wait. But actually this picture came out quite well and was a cute one of us. Cousin Eddy seemingly had trouble finding his cash to pay admission to the park. We waited another 10 minutes behind him at the entry booth.

Once we were in the park, we immediately came upon stopped traffic. Right on the edge of the road was a heard of bison. They were not as attractive as the ones in Yellowstone and instead looked like they’d been crossbred with cows.
While not as awe-inspiring as the South Rim, the North Rim still presents a nearly incomprehensibly vast landscape. It’s very hard to take in. We parked and entered the lodge on the edge of the canyon. In a way, I am a bit disappointed that Kristie’s first view of it had to come from a hotel observation area, but that’s just where we happened into. We then hiked out to Bright Angel Point. This was a great vista. Our first picture from this part of the trip was taken by a group of European Harley Enthusiasts. They were an interesting pair of couples for sure. We then took a detour to get closer to the edge. Kristie climbed to a perched rock making me pretty nervous! I took pictures and then we scampered back to my trail. My cheap sandals were not best equipped for off trail hiking and I also get really nervous whenever someone I care about is near danger. I’m weird like that.

When we returned to the lodge we had really good meal overlooking the canyon at the Lodge Restaurant. Kristie had a very filling homemade macaroni and cheese and I had an amazing black bean burger. The French fries (quartered fried potato) left a bit to be desired but the rest of the meal was awesome. The highlight was probably the incredibly refreshing ice water/seltzer. I may have finished a whole pitcher myself. After lunch, we drove to the eastern outlooks. First we wound our way to Cape Royal. On the way we stopped at Vista Encantada and a nice guy offered to take our picture. Once back in the car, we somehow got back on the disputed topics of the evening before. I was dying to just get to the next outlook because it felt like this conversation was going nowhere good. Finally we got to the outlook and parked the car. After a few minutes to compose, we headed out on the hike to the overlook. The scenery had changed dramatically as there were tons of flowering plants and much more of a desert type of setting. As we continued walking in there were breathtaking views. The best of which was Angel’s Window. We were finally able to hike out onto this spot which gave us 270 degree views of the canyon and, for the first time, the Colorado River. It was amazing.

As we were sitting on a rock, taking it all in, a young family with a boy and a girl were taking a family picture. Kristie burst into tears and said she had to go. I followed her and we hurried to the car. She cried for quite a while. I assume that it was because she felt as if she was never going to have this experience. I don’t know how to show her that I really do want this too. She’s got it stuck in her head that I don’t want to get married and have children with her and/or that I want to wait until we’re old to have kids. I don’t know what to do. It seems that she’s constructed a huge wall and I’ve responded by building my own buttress, but I just don’t know what or why I’m defending and arguing. Kristie fell asleep in the car before we got to the final overlook – Point Imperial. I woke her up when we got there and we headed down to take a few photos. This overlook was not as impressive as the view from Angel’s Window.

After picking up a magnet and some chocolate at the gift shop, we began our drive to the evening’s hotel – The Lodge at Vermillion Cliffs. The drive down was beautiful. We descended from 75 degree forests at the Grand Canyon down into a deep red desert backed by the Vermillion Cliffs. The hotel was a hole in the wall but had a nice clean room. The only thing lacking was a tv and internet. So, after checking in, we headed out to explore. The Navajo Bridge was located about a mile from the lodge. We walked out on it and Kristie was very excited because this was another X-Files associated part of our trip. There was a Morman family there at the same time as us.

Near the bridge we saw a sign for Lake Powell Recreation Area. Though it was getting a bit late, we decided to go in and explore. Right when we were about to turn around, we came upon a parking area where you could access the Colorado River. When we got out of the car, it sounded like there were thousands of rattle snakes rattling all at once. This had to be some other animal making the noise – at least we hoped. We headed down towards the water. I was more careful than Kristie. I think she enjoyed my anxiousness regarding the snakes. I’ll admit it is kind of hilarious. On the way down, we clearly saw the swerving paths of snakes who had passed this way previously. The water was quite cold but it was great to put my feet in this once mighty river. This was the point from which many of the early rafting expeditions had entered the water. I think both of us really liked this spot. It was a great surprise addition to the trip.

Dinner in the lodge restaurant was a blast! The cook and the waitress had very engaging personalities. They had a great beer selection and we tried a beer that is “made in the oldest continuously occupied home in Scotland” – not exactly what you’d expect in the middle of the Arizona desert. We had onion rings for an appetizer. For dinner, Kristie had a NY Sirloin and I had a meal that I don’t think I’ll ever live down… the Blue Cheese and Raisin salad. Just for the record it was amazing. Kristie was like what man eats a salad when his girlfriend is eating a steak. I responded that a lot of men on the coasts eat salads, but she heard on the “on the west coast” and responded with “yeah, in San Francisco.” The waitress and cook loved this as did a group of Kristie’s Facebook friends. And, that joke went on for much of the rest of the evening.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hiking the Narrows

This morning Kristie had a bit of a headache so we laid low. I ran out to Rite Aid to get her some medicine and then she started to feel better right around the close of the free continental breakfast. It gets hot fast here in Utah. By the time we got in the car (around 10:30) it was already north of 100 degrees outside. We headed into Zion National Park. There were signs to listen to the radio to hear directions on parking. It was nearly impossible to discern what the radio station was saying and this was bringing back Kristie’s headache so we turned it off and took our chances. After much circling in the parking lot, I decided to park in ¼ of an RV spot. There was a short RV from Indiana that left enough room for a Prius to sneak in. I was sure to take a picture of the license plate just in case he backed up through my car!
Zion is basically a car-free park. Everyone rides a pretty nice – though not air conditioned – shuttle to each of the park destinations and trailheads. The nice part is that the driver narrates as you go – well ours did since the automatic recording had broken – so you get a bit of a tour while you’re driving.

The valley is beautiful. I think Kristie really enjoyed it to the tune of “we should really come back here someday.” I agree, but in the fall, spring or winter next time. I was kind of disappointed that the tunnel road was under construction because I remember that being magnificent and wish I could have shared this with her. When we arrived at the last stop, we began our one mile hike up to the Narrows. It was hot and we saw a few lizards running across. Thankfully no snakes! This part was paved.
Then we hiked right on into the Zion River. Kristie was wearing Nike ACG sandals and I was wearing socks and shoes. I bet you’d guess that her feet would be in better shape than mine in a few hours. Well you could not have been more wrong. After going about an hour up the river, Krisite’s feet really began to blister and rub against the leather of her shoes. She was a trooper but I knew this was uncomfortable. I started to ask if she wanted to turn around and she kind of became frustrated with me asking. I think she wanted to keep going and also did not want to disappoint me and cut short my hike. Plus we’d been bickering a good bit on this trip so I think tensions may have been a bit up as it was.. We continued around a beautiful corner of the narrows at her insistence. I’m quite happy we did. Then we turned back.

Kristie was able to float down the river for part of it. It was really cool. I got some on video. There were a couple of cool waterfall features along the way and we took a good deal of pictures. I must say that walking in a river is really pretty fun. This was perfect because it was rarely above your waist so you could carry a backpack without it getting soaked. When we finally got back to the paved path, I took a look at Kristie’s feet. They were pretty bad. I suggested that she take her shoes off to walk back in less pain but the cement was so hot that she had to put them back on. It must have seemed like an eternity for her walking back. She had to keep adjusting how she walked.

By the time we got back to the bus we decided that it would be best if we cancelled our tubing reservation so that we could work on getting her feet to heal. We both napped on the ride back to the Visitors Center. I also noticed a very young girl with a tattoo on her arm that said Dad. That just seemed like such a sad situation. There were no Band-Aids at the ranger station so we got back in the sizzling car and headed home. The temperature on the car thermometer was 119. I burned my arm on the plastic of the door. This heat is incredible.

When we got back to town, we showered and cleaned up for dinner. We went to JB’s which has a really good salad bar. Jared would have been proud! They also had pretty good food. Kristie got a taco salad and I got a half sandwich and the scrumptious salad bar. Upon returning to the hotel, we had an enormous argument. Kristie was frustrated that she’s getting older and wants to have kids and that we’re not even married yet. I argued for her – though I don’t know why since I want the same thing on a slightly different timeline – and she ended up saying that she’s not even sure if she wants to be together anymore. This was a rough night for sure.