Saturday, July 19, 2008

Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley

We made a late afternoon trip to Antelope Canyon. (some good photos at this web site) Again the light was not ideal. So much so that the Native American care takers of the canyon were hesitant to make the very bumpy, sandy drive out to the canyon entrance from the parking lot. They were in a hurry to close the canyon for the night so we didn't have much time to photograph, in fact we were literally running through the canyon only stopping momentarily to take a quick photo.The sandy drive to the entrance of the canyon.The entrance of the canyon.
Inside the canyon.

We were burning daylight fast and it was a race between us and the sun to see if we would have light to photograph John Ford's favorite western movie setting, Monument Valley.We decided there was too much scenery to photograph than the light allowed, so we decided to stay nearby in Mexican Hat, Utah for the night and backtrack to Monument Valley in the morning. It's a small fishing village that caters to catfish hunters.The only motel with a vacancy that we affectionately called the "Bates Motel" was a ramshackle affair with sliding glass doors as the entrance to each room. We arrived late but the manager was kind enough to phone the local diner to stay open for three more hungry travelers. We were quite lucky as this diner had excellent fare. I partook of the excellent beef stew served with a platter size piece of Indian fry bread. The next morning after an excellent breakfast at the diner we ate a late dinner the night before, we headed back to Monument Valley in the morning light.

Forest Gump stopped running at this spot
A midget among giants

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Flagstaff, Sedona, Grand Canyon, and Vegas baby!

We had a late dinner at closing time at the Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff. It's an old, distinguished hotel with much history. The next morning we drove south of Flagstaff, AZ to Sedona, AZ. If you have never been to Sedona, you owe it to yourself to find a way to make a trek out here. It has incredible scenery which our photos do not do it justice.

After a jaw dropping experience in Sedona, we traveled north to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park for more TMJ experience.

We took a quick drive along the South Rim drive and wasted more pixels trying to document the majesty of Grand Canyon. Unfortunately,the rain that had followed us all trip was right over our shoulder here too, so the light was not ideal for photographing the canyon.

We headed west to Hoover Dam and into Las Vegas. The experience of actually crossing atop the Hoover Dam at night was unique. They are in the process of creating a bypass for trucks to travel over the Colorado River at a nearby point. Truck traffic is barred from traveling over the dam since 9/11. The bypass they are building is a wonder of the world in itself with it's massive support columns based in carved out areas of the sheer rock cliffs. The bypass is in the upper left of this photo.

We proceeded into Las Vegas to stay at the Tropicana hotel. We walked along the world famous Vegas strip. Thanks to the value of the US dollar, we were in the minority speaking English as French, German and Spanish, along with the occasional Irish lilt or Scottish burr were heard.

We walked into O'Malleys casino along with others, but had a bit of a romance with lady luck as she decided to smile upon our endeavors to walk away with some of the casino's money.
We stayed out until the sun began to rise in the eastern sky competing with the glare of Vegas neon.

Getting up at the crack of noon, we headed over to Stripburger where we had an excellent lunch.So much so we returned for dinner. After lunch, I suggested a walk through the Fashion Show Mall. My suggestion was met with luke warm approval, but that soon changed when we spied the O2 bar. After about 45 minutes of shenanigans fueled by 90% oxygen, we went to Madam Tussauds wax museum.
I went in with an attitude of mentally rolling my eyes, but left laughing most of the time we were there. The wax museum encourages interaction with the wax figures. There's lots of funny (at least we think) photos we took during the tour of the museum.

We were having so much fun we decided to stay another day in Vegas. This was no small decision since we had planned to be back in Dallas sometime Friday. Staying another day in Vegas necessitated we make up that "lost day" on the road. I reworked the itinerary on the fly working out mileages so we could still maintain our terminus date. We hit O'Maleys again with the same result (at least for Dave) as the previous night (read: won money).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rainy days and Sundays

We awoke Saturday to a steady rain and overcast skies. The Manager of the Sahara Motel recommended the Kik 66 diner down the street for breakfast. After an excellent meal of bacon, eggs and pancakes, we stopped for few minutes before leaving Tucumcari and took a few photos of of the business that have failed over the years once Route 66 was bypassed or enveloped by I 40.
Though it's inherently sad to see these dreams of others fail, the remaining standing structures are a goldmine for photographers.

Heading west, we stopped briefly at the El Rancho Hotel-Motel in Gallup, NM. As you may have seen from a previous blog, it's a historical landmark. Dave has some nice photos which I will upload when he downloads them from his camera.

Further west and we were in the Petrified Forest National Park. This park also includes the Painted Desert Park. We spent more time here than we originally scheduled, but it was worth it to put us off schedule.
The small river that ran through the park created some wonderful patterns in the sediment in the river bottom.

There were petroglyphs at this park that had to be viewed from a distance. This was shot through the telescope the park provides.

We arrived in Flagstaff after dark, found a motel on the old Route 66 and decided to have a quick, late dinner then off to bed for some much needed shut eye.

More to be posted later, running out of energy, both mine and the laptop...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tejas to Tucumcari

A quick entry, photos will be forthcoming:

Dave's cousin Dennis arrived at DFW at 2 pm Friday afternoon. His original flight was canceled by American Airlines ("we know why you fly", uh, apparently not). He was notified by AA in the wee hours of the morning of the cancellation, and he scrambled to get the flight he arrived on which only put him into Dallas a few hours later than originally scheduled. As it worked out, I needed more time to get ready for the trip because it just so happened Apple released a new, much anticipated firmware update for the iphone (which I own) the morning of our departure. Well not only was I excited to get the new update, but so were about two million other iphone owners, as we were trying to download and install the update at the same time. The Apple servers crashed during the update, my phone with all my phone contacts and music became an expensive brushed aluminum brick. I persevered and kept trying to complete the install hoping I could use my phone and at least some of it's functions. After a couple of hours of pinging the Apple server, I got most of my data installed except for a bunch of web sites I had saved.

Dave swung by to pick me up and repack the car to put more junk in the back. We were off for DFW and cousin Dennis. We stopped for a quick bite to eat at the Whataburger on Lemmon, ( I went to school with the founder of Whataburger's daughter, but that's another story) and headed toward DFW. We were going to be too early for his flight so we stopped at a Carnival food store in Irving. It's a nice little chain owned by the Minyard family. If you want ANY kind of Mexican spice, sauce, pig part, (yes, hooves and heads are available for your family recipes) fresh garlic, rows of tortillas, etc. it's the place to go. We decided the pig heads weren't fresh so we passed and opted for shaving cream, a deck of cards, double A batteries, hand sanitizer and a can of Goya pear juice.

We left Carnival with all the essentials and realized that we still had time to kill before Dennis' flight so we stopped at Toyota of Irving to hassle the car salesmen there. We kicked some tires wasted some time (theirs and ours) and got to the airport just as Dennis deplaned. We scooped up his bag ( thank God he only had one!) and down the road we went. We made a quick stop at Arby's since Dennis hadn't had a bite all day. Refueled with more processed beef, we were out the door like a West Texas wind.

The drive to Amarillo was uneventful. We stopped at the Golden Light Cafe, usual first stop on our trips out west. We were welcomed with open arms by the staff there who had remembered us from our annual journeys there. After having some refreshments we walked across the street to the biker bar formally known as "Gators". We were saddened to learn that the manager of Gators had given the lease up to the owner of the building. He was an ex cop who was very friendly to us. In previous years as was the local custom, we had placed a dollar bill on the wall with our name and the date we visited. We were cheap and used the same bill for the past few years. But since the ex cop lost his lease, he took down all the dollars that had been on the wall for years, including ours. We can't be too upset because we heard that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer and had gone to Iraq to make as much money as possible for his family before the inevitable end. We talked to the new owner into letting us start a new bill mounting tradition so we will see if they are displayed either on the way back on this trip or possibly next year.

We left Amarillo heading due west to our final destination of the day, Tucumcari, New Mexico. On the way we made a brief stop at the Frontier in Albuquerque located across the street from the University of New Mexico so I could have my cheeseburger fix.

I thought it might be fun to stay at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari which has been given National Landmark status, located on historic Route 66
but they were booked. The innkeeper suggested the Motel Safari ("American owned", "Serta pillow top mattresses", "Flat panel screen TV", "look for the camel on the sign")
that was nearby. Waking up to a heavy drizzle at the Safari Motel the next morning. The rain would plague us every day of the trip.

The motel has been updated and it's the nicest motel I've been in. It's the only hotel I've ever been to that had a remote control for the air conditioner. And so that is where we have alighted for the evening. It's 3 am Dallas time as I post this and that pillow top mattress has it's work cut out for it...

Tomorrow it's on to Flagstaff, AZ.

PS. A little travel math for those folks apprehensive about taking a road trip this summer: I figured that we are spending about 5 cents a mile per person in gas. Not bad, we're getting about 25 mpg in a fully loaded (800 lb+ cargo and people) car. We'd have to travel by pipeline to travel any cheaper.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A View to a Thrill

Wanted to get a place holder for the upcoming(?) blog. Getting a lot of requests to do a blog for this trip too.

If you are interested and want to bone up on previous trips taken you may view the blogs here:

The pre-trip itinerary for this years jaunt is (subject to change without notice to stay one step ahead of the authorities):

1) Friday 7/11: Pick up Dave's cousin Dennis at DFW airport early afternoon,
head to Amarillo to Golden Light to have a burger for dinner, then down the road to Tucumcari, NM for the night.

2) Saturday 7/12: Tucumcari, NM to Flagstaff, Az or possibly Sedona, AZ (to hassle John McCain- harhar). Crash for the night in Flagstaff/Sedona, Az

3) Sunday 7/13: Drive the South Rim drive at Grand Canyon National Park. Drive to Las Vegas baby!, spend all our money and the night. Stock up on lawyers, guns and money.

4) Monday 7/14: Vegas to Monument Valley/Glen Canyon area. Possibly camping.

5) Tuesday 7/15: Glen Canyon to Durango, CO for the night. Possibly camping.

6) Wednesday 7/16: Durango, Co to Santa Fe for the night. Possibly camping.

7) Thursday 7/17: Santa Fe to Amarillo for the night.

8) Friday 7/18: Amarillo to Dallas...