"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

People People People

Our visit here in Los Angeles is so different from the comparative social isolation we've been living in for the last six months. Not only are we surrounded by people in this urban and suburban environment, but we are also having company or visiting friends almost every day. We are staying at Eastshore RV Park, part of the county park system, right next to Frank Bonelli Park, overlooking Puddingstone Reservoir and the San Gabriel Mountains (which have been snow covered for the past few days). It's a quiet natural oasis in the urban sprawl of LA.  We've seen many hawks, bald eagles, humming birds, hundreds of bunnies at night and even a road runner.

My son Mark is here with us for the holidays. It's so wonderful to spend time with him. We're managing just fine with three people in the RV. Here's a picture of Mark in the gardens of the Getty Museum in LA.

I took hundreds of photos at the Getty - it's a photographer's dream. Here's a selection of my favorites:

(Mr. & Mrs. Cactus visit the Getty)

The gardens around the Getty are hummingbird heaven.

Guess who?

Our very first night here we went to a contra dance in Santa Monica (see page link at the right for an explanation of contra dancing). Our first since we started our adventure six months ago! We hoped to be doing much more dancing, but this is the first we have found that is in the same place we are at the same time. Rick and I danced together a lot, and felt right at home.

I also had a great visit with Hal, a friend of mine from about 30 years ago. (Really hard to believe it was that long ago.) When I taught at a private school in Florida he was a student there. Now he's in LA working in the film industry. 

On Sunday we took a Melting Pot Tasting Tour of Old Pasadena, led by our friend Kendall Davis. What a wonderful way to learn about a city! We walked around for about 3.5 hours, stopping in at various restaurants, a soap shop, a tea shop, a chocolatier and an olive oil store, all the while getting historical and local interest information from our guide. The food was varied and delicious, and the frequent stops made the time fly by. It's something I'd recommend to everyone.

Last night we had dinner with old friends of Rick's from camp Elektor. The whole Davis family gathered for an delightful, aromatic and rich Moroccan meal prepared by Summer and her husband Youssef. We felt very privileged to be part of their close, loving community for an evening. 

Today Mark is going back to the Davis's to do a little computer work, and I'm driving to Malibu for lunch with my old friend Wendy, from Keene, NH, during my Antioch years.  It'll be my first time in Malibu. Mark's childhood friend, Lars, who also lives in LA, will be driving him back here and we'll have our second visit with Lars. 

Los Angeles has just been a whirlwind of visiting and driving, driving, driving, and I'm ready for a little down time. Tomorrow Ms. Subaru gets her windshield replaced and we prepare to travel again.  We'll be moving south to a park east of San Diego, called Santee Lakes, another county park. I hope the pace will be a little slower there.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving in Las Vegas

This was a very unconventional Thanksgiving. We are staying at the RV park at Lake Mead, and when the Big Holiday came along we headed for the Big City for something unusual. I used to hate Las Vegas, just on principle really, (the sickness of gambling, the excessive waste of money, the craziness of using all this water in the middle of the desert, etc, etc...) as I have had only minimal exposure.

The first time I was in Las Vegas was thirty some odd years ago, and there were just a few casinos - I remember the Flamingo, and Circus Circus had just been built. There was really nothing much more than the strip in the dessert.  Then Rick and I visited it again in 2010 in our Cruise America mini-RV. We had a lot of trouble finding parking, and we just went to see the fountain at Bellagio. Then I had the opportunity to spend a few hours there in October, waiting for a plane, and drove around, getting more familiar with it, and I began to get a different feeling.  I began to see it as a huge adult amusement park, like Disney World. If it weren't for the gambling, I think I'd be able to embrace it more easily. Gambling is just such a wasteful addictive thing.

So this time we went to see Cirque du Soliel's Ka at the MGM, and had a lovely dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Great show, no lines for dinner, and a perfect table. Got an eyeful of the shops at the Forum, which was enough.

THEN, I got my Christmas present! Rick surprised me by arranging with Mark, my son, to have him visit us right now!  He drove out to Arizona with a friend, and we just had to go pick him up. Couldn't ask for anything better. So now he's traveling with us for awhile until he moves on the the next thing.

We have visited with some old friends, and my cousin and her family here, as well as seeing some of the sights, like the Hoover Dam and Red Rock canyon. It has not really been a sight seeing visit, as we have also been dealing with some RV repairs, but here are a few shots of what we did see.

Lake Mead. The beaches we saw were dirt and rocks, rather than sand.
The water is nice and clear though. 

Another view of Lake Mead.
We've seen many Gambrel quail, a road runner, rabbits, one fox and lots of  grackles. We've heard and seen evidence of a couple of coyote packs very close by, but haven't seen any here yet.

A road runner roosting on my bike.

This is our second visit to Hoover Dam. It has lots of  beautiful aesthetic features that make it a really unique place to see.  

Intake towers and Lake Mead at Hoover Dam.

One of the grand sculptures at Hoover Dam.

The toes of this sculpture, that get rubbed for good luck, a lot.

The new bridge over the Colorado.

Sunrise from the RV.

Tomorrow we pack up and head for an overnight in Barstow. We hear it's the armpit of California. But the next day we'll be in San Dimas, just west of Los Angeles. Hope to see friends and family there during our two week stay. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Four Flats in the Desert

You may remember the goofy hikers. Now we've done an encore as the goofy bikers. Got our bikes out for a scenic ride through the desert on the trails in the State Park and ended up with four flat tires and a long walk home. Some kind of stealthy little Arizona ground plant with tiny spikes that jump on to your bike tires.  I know not to drive into a cactus, but how do you avoid what you can't see? Do the locals know about these things?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Sedona Vortex

No, I didn't feel it. Kind of a reverse vortex - it spit me out rather than sucking me in.  In fact the town of Sedona, AZ seems more of a center for new age tourists craving crystals and exotic forms of comfort/adventure than anything else. It's really kind of funny. How may crystal and incense stores can one possibly need? Yes, it is located in a truly beautiful spot geographically - a valley surrounded by red rock formations and rolling orange hills with plenty of greenery. The town itself is a strip of tourist oriented galleries, restaurants and high-end souvenirs crowded with cars and jeeps for hire.  The residences around it are impressive adobe and Spanish style homes and condos.  There are more psychics, tarot card readers and "Native American" spirituality dealers than you can shake a rain stick at. This is not my kind of spirituality.  It seems to be overly dependent on props/materialism. Lots of people making money off of this.

I try to be nonjudgemental about the cultures I encounter in our travels, but I think that the commercialism of this, and that fact that I've been there and done that, sends me over the edge. I apologize if I've offended.

Just yesterday a "self-help author" who runs spirituality workshops in Sedona, was convicted of negligent homicide for the deaths of three people during a sweat lodge experience he was leading. You may have heard about it in the news. He said an interesting thing: He has become aware that his profession has a great deal of arrogance, and that the experience has humbled him. Thank goodness. I hope it humbles a few more spirituality peddlers as well.

Anyway, we passed through Sedona a couple of times, but stayed in Cottonwood, in the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. (Now that name is about as far as you can get from the pretty spirituality of Sedona.) Cottonwood is kind of an old funky cool town with plenty of coffee, wine and antique stores, along with Walmart and Home Depot nearby for supplies of the more mundane sort.

Tuzigoot is an ancient pueblo ruin located in Cottonwood. There is another ruin nearby called Montezuma's Castle (a misnomer - no connection to Montezuma). I found them both sweet, majestic, peaceful and visually poetic.  (More "vortex" than in Sedona as far as I'm concerned.)


Inside Tuzigoot


Montezuma's Castle

Our stay here has included numerous road trips to surrounding towns, including Jerome, Prescott and Flagstaff.  All have a bend toward tourism but maintain a sense of their own purposes. Jerome is an old mining town on the mountainside, and Prescott and Flagstaff are college towns.

Spectacular scenery continues to amaze us everywhere we go. I think our favorites here were the Mingus Highway between Cottonwood and Prescott that winds its way over Mingus Mountain, and the Oak Creek Canyon Road north of Sedona.

Slide Rock State Park - A natural water park and this would be the lazy river.

Both are actually 89A.  It, and route 89 are great roads that we've travelled on since up in Montana.  I'd recommend them for sight seeing, but not always for RV travel. They are often turny-twisty passes through mountains and canyons.

It's fall here again for us. We've been following fall south through Montana, Idaho, Utah and Arizona.

Arizona Sycamore

Now we are moving on to Nevada. We'll be in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving. Hope to see one of the Cirque du Soliel shows and visit with some friends there. It certainly won't be like a traditional Thanksgiving, and we'll miss being with friends and family, but that won't interfere with our having a lot to be thankful for.

Thank you Rick!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Deserted High Desert Dessert

We're at the end of our stay at Lake Powell, and I think we saved the best for last.  We've taken two boat tours on the lake,

one to the infamous Rainbow Bridge.  If you can see the tiny people under the arch on the left side (one has a red jacket on), that will give you a sense of how huge it is.

We rafted down the Colorado through Glen Canyon, drifting through and then later overlooking another often photographed landmark, the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado:

We've visited the North Rim of the Grand Canyon,

and taken some beautiful hikes.

But the creme de la creme was the 1/4 mile hike through Lower Antelope Slot Canyon:

When I viewed all my photos from the slot canyon it looked like I was trapped inside a taffy machine. It was certainly sweet. I was a little giddy right from the start; it's kind of a heady experience because it is so unusual. It's very narrow, and requires maneuvering some tight squeezes and climbing up and down some steel ladders.  The canyon walls are all the same pinky orange sandstone, but the depth and the bounce light create the range of colors from golden to purple and sometimes even blue.

Lake Powell is a hub of spectacular scenery. It's especially grand this time of year when the lake is almost deserted. In peak season the campgrounds are packed and the lake is buzzing with house boats, ski boats and jet skis.  The canyons would have been crowded with photographers. But now we have it almost all to ourselves.  The weather has been chilly: low 50's in the day and just below freezing at nights, so swimming, except for Kona, is out of the question. Kona and I have been to almost all of the sand and rock beaches around here, and they are as beautiful as any tropical ones I've seen.

We'll be leaving tomorrow, heading for Cottonwood, AZ, near Sedona. More red rocks.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lake Powell and Glen Canyon

Here's our new home, for a couple of weeks: Wahweap campground on Lake Powell near Page, Arizona.

View of Lake Powell from our campsite.

It is situated right on Lake Powell. The area is high desert and rock mountains, mesas and canyons. Most of the Glen Canyon was turned into Lake Powell by damming the Colorado River in 1957.

Glen Canyon Dam and Bridge

Yesterday we took a raft trip down the 15 miles left of Glen Canyon, from Page to Lees Ferry, where the Grand Canyon begins.

A perfectly still moment on the Colorado River, in Glen Canyon.

The raft trip took about 3-4 hours. It was a peaceful ride - no white water. The temperature was perfect, warm in the sun and cool in the shade. In the summer we hear it can be brutally hot. The scenery was spectacular. The Navajo and Kayenta sandstone cliffs range from 500 to 1000 feet on both sides.  Our little raft was really dwarfed. In the next photo the tiny dot that you can barely see on the river in the distance is a 20 person raft like ours at the end of a 2 mile straight stretch.

You really begin to lose perspective of how huge the canyon is after drifting for a few hours. This moment was a reminder.

The rock itself is fascinating. Rick and I are going to take a geology course on DVD so we can understand more
about what we are seeing. The southwest is so much about rocks.

We will be exploring Lake Powell as much as we can while we're here. We've already kayaked and explored the shore lines nearby.  We'll barely scratch the surface as the lake is 254 square miles. The shore length is 1,900 miles, with all the convolutions from the canyons. People rent houseboats here and spend days, weeks, exploring the lake.

Kayaking on Lake Powell
But we'll do what we can.

P.S. I changed the look of the blog in honor of the season, and the aesthetics of the southwest.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Last Look at our Zion Home

Along the Canyon Overlook Trail
During this, our last week here, we hit a few places on our must do list, and took a few hikes. While I was away, Rick hiked to Angels Landing - a truly impressive feat that I'm glad he did without me.  I will send readers to Joe Braun, one of my favorite websites to get a view of that trail.

Together we hiked a few much less ambitious trails in Zion, and drove to Kolob Canyon. Here are a few pictures from those adventures, plus a few from Bryce, which I never got around to writing about earlier.

One of the more interesting corners on the Canyon Overlook Trail.

Rick at the top of the trail.

Roots across the trail.

A sweet last view of Zion, for now.

 These two are from Bryce National Park.

Cathedral windows 

From the Sunset-Sunrise Trail in Bryce.

 And finally...

This has been our view from our "backyard" in Virgin, UT.