I’ve always wanted to use that spell! — Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter & The Dealthy Hallows, Part 2
I’ve always wanted to use that spell!
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I took Andrew’s mom Karen on a trip to Prescott in May 2005 and she patiently waited for me to take about 93,840,018 pictures with my new 75-300mm Canon lens. Here are three of my favorites from the excursion.
Prescott Valley, May 2005
Through the Tree, Prescott, May 2005
Arcosanti, May 2005
At the beginning of July 2010, we were supposed to be on a flight to London for a 3-week whirlwind tour of Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and England. Unfortunately in April, I found out that I was restricted from flying due to a pituitary tumor which may have ruptured in my head. We regrettably canceled the trip, got our money back thanks to travel insurance, and decided instead to embark by car to explore the great state of California. What follows is a recap of our adventures with Bumblebee, our transforming trip mascot.
We left Gilbert around 6:30am for our drive towards Los Angeles. Along the way, we stopped to see the Robotic Dinosaurs and had lunch at Bob’s Twin Kitchen, a crazy little dive with great food in Indio. Once in the LA area, we visited the McDonald’s Museum which has a vast array of Happy Meal toys, product advertisements and fun memorabilia. We stopped at several Toys R Us and Kmart locations which we continued doing throughout the whole trip, shopping for elusive Transformers for Andrew’s immense collection. On one of these stops we aquired our travel mascot and transforming companion known as Battle Axe Bumblebee. We stopped at the Graber Olive House and purchased some canned olives for later. Then it was a quick visit to the Nethercutt Museum to photograph a 1930 Cord for my DaD, who is really interested in model cars at the moment. Dinner in Santa Clarita was at Rattler’s BBQ which was tasty, but not worth the expense. Our hotel was the Courtyard in Valencia which was occupied by hundreds of college kids going to Six Flags. The fire alarm kept going off time and time again which I was not thrilled about. To escape the noise we went swimming for a while in the hotel’s nice pool and hot tub.
Breakfast was at Eggs ‘n Things in Santa Clarita – voted best breakfast ever by Andrew. He loved his omelette and free crepe. We then got stuck in an I-5 traffic disaster for over an hour due to tanker truck falling over and catching fire across the freeway. Eventually we made it through and stopped at Murray’s Farms, a quaint little family farm with delicious cherries and concord grapes. We picked up some orange honey for Bee. It was here that we paid the highest price for gas during the entire trip at $3.79 per gallon. We had lunch in Kettleman City at a crazy busy Taco Bell. Then it was time for the Super Secret Surprise stop – something I planned that Andrew was unaware of. We stopped off to see a giant Bumblebee statue on private property in Lemoore, California. We spoke with the homeowner whose son made the statue and placed it on her farm. After some pictures and a donation of $20 to their effort, we were back on the road again. The next stop was Chukchansi Casino where we won $10 for Bee! Then we drove up to Mariposa, through crazy landscapes including surreal meadows and winding roads. We stopped in to see the California Mining & Mineral museum but they were closing in 10 minutes, so let us run through it really fast. We checked into Comfort Inn in Mariposa, a family business with no customer service skill where “1st floor” includes stairs anyway. The place had uncomfortable beds, but given the alternatives, it is still probably the best place to stay in Mariposa. Dinner was at the Happy Burger Diner with the best damn garlic fries in the universe, great food, great burgers, grilled cheese, tater tots and onion rings. YUM!
Breakfast this morning was at a small diner called the Sugar Pine in Mariposa. It was good, but nothing to write home about. We then made the 75 minute drive into Yosemite National Park. Somehow we were able to find parking immediately and hopped on the shuttle to the visitor center. We walked to the Ahwanee for brunch reservations, and arrived at 10:00 for our 10:30 brunch. We sat on the couch outside the restaurant for a few minutes to cool off and dry a bit before heading in for food. Brunch at Ahwanee was pretty terrible – the brunch buffet was $55 each so we passed on that, getting standard menu items and spending a total of $50 for terrible food. We then took the shuttle from Ahwanee to Yosemite Lodge and picked up our tickets for the 12:00pm Valley Floor tour. We took pictures of the Yosemite waterfall from outside the visitor center while waiting for tour which boarded at 11:45am. It took us through the valley on regular roads, with two short stops between narration. The first was at a meadow by the river and the second was outside Tunnel View, but we did not go through the tunnel. We saw Half Dome, Bridal Veil Falls, El Capitan and more on the 2-hr tour Valley Floor tour. After the tour, we walked to lower Yosemite Falls and took pictures in the mist. We skipped the full shuttle buses and instead walked to parking the area. On the way, we walked across a beautiful windy meadow and stopped to take glamor shots of Bee. We left Yosemite after making a PB&J sandwich to tide me over for the long ride ahead. From there we headed northwest, driving through crazy windy road landscapes through mountains and meadows to Stockton. We tried to eat at Angelina’s Spaghetti House but they were closed for 4th of July, so instead of checked into the Courtyard in Stockton. Thoe hotel was under construction but had extremely comfortable rooms and very easy parking. Dinner was at Olive Garden in Stockton, where I had the delicious Parmesan Polento Encrusted Steak. Andrew had the same with chicken, and both were yummy!
We slept in a bit and got started late at 8:00am. Breakfast was fantastic at America Waffles in Stockton. We drove into Sacramento and tried to visit the Hayes Antique Truck Museum but they weren’t open yet, even though it was after 10am (their posted opening time). Instead we drove back into Sacramento and went to the California Automotive Museum, where the docent let me behind ropes to capture photos and video of the GM EV1 and 1932 Lincoln for DaD. The docent was really nice and photocopied information about the Lincoln for DaD, too, without even asking. We passed by Jamie’s Bar and Grill and decided not to eat there, opting instead for lunch at Whitey’s Jolly Kone in West Sacramento. This dive had great food cheap, and is worth the wait and the outdoor seating. We took a pic of Bee with sign, and the Sacramento Bee newspaper stand just for fun. We drove from there to see the giant Coke cup, where Bee managed to sip some from the straw with some crafty camera angles. Bee lost $20 at Colusa Casino in Colusa, California before heading over to visit the National Yo-Yo Museum in Chico. We drove all over downtown Chico, a cute boutique town with lots of shops. Then Bee won $20 at Win-River Casino and he was happy again! Dinner was at Lumberjack’s in Redding – super good top sirloin which came with a whole loaf of bread as a side. We checked into the brand new Fairfield Inn in Redding which had been open 5 weeks.
When arising on this morning we found a cockroach on the camera bag. When I approached the front desk to tell them about it as a courtesy, the manager replied, “Oh yeah I know. We’re totally infested with them. The hotel had a delay in opening and we’ve fumigated twice but they just won’t die.” Lovely. I suppose it should be standard procedure to ask the hotel if they are infested with cockroaches before making a reservation. My bad! Breakfast in Redding was at the Gold Street Cafe where they make real sun tea outside like a real country place. The food was great! We visited the Sundial Bridge and Turtle Bay Exploration Park before shopping for a bit at Kohl’s, Target, and Toys R Us. From Sacramento we drove up to Dunsmuir but the burger stand wasn’t open yet, so we moved on to Mt. Shasta City. We stopped at visitor center to look at brochures and found one for the Lavender Fields at the base of Mt. Shasta. After a 45-minute drive and a dirt path up the hill, we were stunned to find an absolutely gorgeous lavender field with the most picturesque snow-covered Mt. Shasta we could ever have imagined. We enjoyed the fresh air and cut some lavender, and took lots of pictures of Bee in the field. From there we drove to Oregon and had a quick lunch at Abby’s Incredible Pizza in Medford which was okay (better than we expected). We went shopping in Medford looking for Transformers at Kohl’s and Toys R Us before stopping at Barnes and Noble so Andrew picked up some books to read from the Scott Pilgrim series. We got some Calamine lotion at Target for Andrew’s mosquito bites, then drove on through the southern Oregon region to Crescent City. We checked into Arbor Beach Inn in Crescent City. The place was motel style but had a great cable channel lineup with 80 channels, fantastic high speed internet wireless access and decent rooms. I was quite impressed with it – Anchor Beach Inn ended up being one of the best places we stayed at. They even had a laundry room and an in door jacuzzi. We ate a quick dinner at Burger King and got some Twilight (Eclipse) kids meal toys just for fun.
Breakfast in Crescent City was Denny’s before we headed up to walk the Simpson Reed Grove trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We walked through it once with the rented Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens I had from Tempe Camera, which captured some amazing shots of the Redwoods. We stopped off at the Hiouchi visitor center for postcards and discovered some of the park roads were closed for grading that week. We ate at the Hiouchi cafe for lunch which was grilled cheese and tuna melt, then drove back and walked the Simpson Reed Grove trail again with my 3D lens. We also walked the Peterson Memorial Trail portion at the back of Simpson Reed and got a few new shots back there. Since we could not drive Howland Hills Road in the Stout Grove due to grading and construction, instead we drove up to Brookings, Oregon for some sightseeing. Our stop at Lone Ranch Beach proved to be a beautiful one and we got lots of nice shots here with Bee on the rocks and in the water. We went back into the town of Brookings for dinner at O’Hollerans – steak, prawns, and the king salmon special were pretty good! Then we drove north to Mack Arch in the Boardman State Scenic Corridor for more photos. We visited several other stops on the way south as the mist/fog rolled in and got very heavy along the coast. Along the way we stopped at a 1.5 story Fred Meyer grocery store where I bought some scratcher lottery tickets and won $5. Then we returned to Crescent City for the evening.
For breakfast we ate at the Apple Peddler which wasn’t that good. Then we drove south in Del Norte State Park to the first overlook which was fogged over. We drove back to our room for a bathroom since they were hard to come by, then returned back on the road south for adventure. The drive was steep and very foggy. We tried to stop at a few overlooks but everything was fogged over. We drove the entire Coastal Drive but there wasn’t much to see along the way. We drove the Scenic Drive to Prairie Creek Visitor Center and had a small picnic lunch with Bee at the visitor center. We drove to Big Tree and took some photos while walking Circle Trail. Then we visited and drove through Tour Thru Tree, and Bee transformed to drive through it as well. It was very funny, except another tourist almost squashed Bee because he wasn’t looking. Andrew drove my Envoy through the tree while I video taped it, and I nearly hyperventilated because I didn’t actually expect him to try and drive my baby through that tree. He BARELY made it. We left the Tour Thru Tree and went to the Trees of Mystery, a kitchy tourist trap costing $14 per person. We hiked around for a bit and got to the “summit” which is 105 feet above the parking lot (woo!). Andrew rode the Sky Trail with Bee and took more pictures as I went back down for an ice cream cone. The gigantic statues of Paul Bunyan with his ox Babe were “talking” to visitors via a loudspeaker and some strategic cameras. I watched as “Paul” commented to visitors and tried to get them to do cartwheels and buy him ice cream. After Andrew and Bee returned from their Sky Trail adventure, we drove back into town and did laundry at the Inn. Dinner was at the Charter House where we had a steak and seafood combo which wasn’t that great. The wait was really long and they were crazy busy, as it’s the only nice restaurant in Crescent City.
We checked out of Anchor Beach Inn and had breakfast at Gold Harvest Cafe. We then made a visit to Ocean World where we signed up for their kitchy tour. I got to hold starfish and pet two sharks before we watched their little sea lion show. The kids on the tour seemed to love it, and I would recommend it if you have the time and want to pet a shark! We then left Crescent City and drove south to the Avenue of the Giants, stopping to visit the One Log House along the way. We got the code from the cashier and paid our $1 each, then Bee punched in “today’s code” and we checked out the cabin. It too was kitchy, but fun to get pics of Bee in. We had lunch in Eureka at Hurricane Kate’s, a trendy little pizza joint with too much trend and not enough good food. We took our time walking around town of Eureka eating ice cream cones and stopping at little shops along the way. Once back on the road we began our crazy drive down Highway 1 South from Leggett. Dinner was at Jenny’s Giant Hamburger in Fort Bragg – another tiny dive with cheap food. We checked into the Best Western in Fort Bragg for the night.
This morning we checked out the Muir beach overlook on our drive to San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge. Bee enjoyed his view out the front window and we snapped lots of pictures of him on the bridge. Once in town we checked into the Courtyard Fishermans Wharf and had dinner Lucy’s Diner in Ghiradelli square. We bought chocolate (of course!) in the madhouse that was Ghiradelli Chocolates. Since Andrew and I had lived in the San Francisco area in the summer of 1998 together, we had already done pretty much everything there is to do in the city related to tourism. We walked out on the pier towards Alcatraz and took some novelty pictures of Bee, then walked back to the hotel with some Cold Stone in hand.
In the morning we drove to the Mission district and had breakfast St Francis Fountain, which I was none to thrilled with at all. We stood in line across the street and secured six Dynamo Donuts for breakfast the following morning before driving to Golden Gate Park to visit the San Francisco Botanical Garden. We walked around for a while but I was not impressed, so we headed back to go to the California State Institute of the Arts. When we arrived they were having a fire alarm and the building had been evacuated. We decided to leave there and drove north over the Golden Gate bridge. We were trying to meet up with my friend Bryan who lives in San Francisco but that didn’t work out since he had plans already and couldn’t get away. We went Toys R Us hopping all over the surrounding areas. Since we found ourselves in Danville, we decided to try and find the Blackhawk Collection which I had an appointment at the following morning to photograph a car for my DaD. Along the way we discovered there is also a Blackhawk Museum we didn’t know about! We stopped there and I got on the phone with DaD to describe all the cars to him and find out which ones he wanted pictures of. I got the shots he wanted, then struck up a conversation with the Librarian in the gift shop who pulled books with information for DaD on the cars he wanted. I purchased one of them for DaD as a birthday gift. We drove from Danville to Campbell and visited the home we stayed in while interning at HP in 1997 and 1998. We ate dinner at A Bellagio in Campbell which was pretty bad. Then we drove back into San Francisco and got in line at Humphrey Slocomb for ice cream! Unfortunately for us, the New York Times had just featured an article about the place so the lines were longer than usual. I was able to get Tahitian Vanilla, while Andrew enjoyed his Peach ice cream with Frosted Peanuts. We took the long route back to the hotel up the entire stretch of Embarcadero Street before retiring for the evening.
We got up early and ate the donuts from Dynamo which were dynamite and delicious! Then we packed up our car again and left San Francisco to visit the Blackhawk Collection in Danville. After a quick stop at the Bagel Shop in Danville, we arrived at the Blackhawk Collection which is in a private gated community and under 24 hour police surveillance. This place houses some of the most expensive cars for sale in California, and I was lucky enough to photograph a 1929 Stutz Jones Special Indy race car for my DaD. The staff at Blackhawk were very nice to us and we appreciate their hospitality very much. We left there so as not to take up too much of their time, and drove towards Santa Cruz hitting Toys R Us locations along the way. We had lunch at a mall food court before hitting the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk and arcade where Andrew got to play actual arcade games. We paid $11 to park in a full lot and had to wait for a spot which was not very fun. I got a postcard of old cars from an old time arcade machine and sent to Dad with a leftover postcard stamp in my wallet. We left Santa Cruz and drove Highway 1 to San Simeon, stopping at Pea Soup Anderson’s in Buellton and the Loleta Cheese Factory along the way. Dinner was at an unexpected roadside stop with a fancy restaurant on Highway 1 which had terrible service and if possible, even worse food. We checked into San Simeon Lodge for the evening.
Breakfast was at San Simeon Lodge restaurant before we checked out and headed over to Hearst Castle. We got our tour tickets and sat down to watch the 8:15am showing of the Hearst movie. Once complete, we hopped directly on the bus to drive up the hill and to the castle for our standard 1 hr 45 min tour. Andrew had seen it before when he was much younger, but this was my first visit. Neither of us were impressed, I suppose because the things at Hearst are “modeled after” things we had already seen in Europe for real. I guess we are completely spoiled like that. It was pretty, but not as pretty as the “real things” were. We left San Simeon and drove toward LA stopping at Santa Monica Pier for an original Hot Dog on a Stick. Lunch was quick at McDonald’s before doing some more Toys R Us hopping and hitting up some of the Recycle Bookstore locations for more of DaD’s birthday gifts. We stopped off for some Spudnuts before checking into what must be one of the shittiest hotels in the LA area: The Beverly Laurel Hotel. This place was absolutely terrible. The parking was horrible, and the check-in staff jammed my credit card in their machine and made me wait 20+ minutes for them to pry it open. We didn’t trust the elevator not to break down so we had to cart our luggage up a flight up stairs to our “ground level” room. The bathroom door didn’t even shut, and the bathroom tiles had been painted over with so many layers you could practically leave a thumbprint in it if you pressed down a little bit. By far, this was the worst place we stayed during this entire trip, and it still cost $140 for a single night. It was horrible. The only redeeming quality is the diner downstairs called the Hollywood Swingers, which allowed adults 13-59 to order from the kid’s menu with a $3.00 surcharge. What a concept!
We woke up and ate our Spudnuts for breakfast, which were might tasty. Then we took off toward downtown Los Angeles to visit Berger Beads. We had to wait about 20 minutes for the owner to show up and open the store, but this place was amazing. They had all kinds of beads and notions I had never seen before. I picked up a few fun items and then we headed over to Galco’s for a soda fix. Just $86 worth of soda later (we stocked up – way up!) we were on our way to the Petersen Automotive Museum to photograph a few more cars for DaD. They didn’t allow me to bring in my tripod so I got what I could with the flash. We got to see a few new additions to the museum displays such as the original Grease Lightening and the actual Batmobile! Those were really neat to see. We had lunch at the Johnny Rockets inside the Petersen, then hopped on the road one last time towards home. We stopped at Mom and Dad’s for a quick visit on our way through Chandler, then grabbed a Hungry Howie’s pizza and landed at home to see our four kitties at last.
It was a fun, exhausting, adventuresome trip and we’re glad we went! Someday though, I’d still like to visit Paris like we were supposed to in the first place.
On April 26, 2010 my husband and I attended the 12:20pm taping of The Price is Right with Drew Carey in CBS Television City outside of Los Angeles, California. The show aired on May 19, 2010 on CBS and we were sitting dead center behind Contestant’s Row, shown in almost every shot of the audience that aired during the episode.
For those who plan to be in the audience (or possibly be a contestant) on The Price Is Right, I present you with this list of things to expect when you get to CBS Television City. I wrote this list not to be an accurate representation of what you will absolutely experience, but to share our single experience with those just as naive as we were when we got our tickets to the show.
I must preface this with the fact that we have only been to one single taping, and have never been in the audience of any other game shows. This is our first and only experience, described by the true newbies that we were.
The following is a recap of what we discovered along the way during our day as an audience member on The Price is Right.
Order of Arrival Passes and Original Tickets
Line #1: With OOA pass in hand, return at your scheduled time to get in the first of three lines. There is no point in getting there early, because you will be lined up in order of arrival. There is plenty of seating available, however they clear benches #1 and #2 first so I suggest sitting on bench #5 for the long haul. Make absolutely sure you are NOT LATE to this line, or you will be automatically booted from the audience and miss your chance to be on the show. Audience members are called in groups of 30 to get in numerical order based on your OOA pass number. You will be provided with a Contestant Number at this time, which will NOT match your OOA number. First you get a green tag with contestant number that you write your name and SSN on, followed by a white bio card. The bio card will be used to help select contestants, so make it good! You must wear your contestant number on your shirt attached to your name tag until you get into the theater. Our OOA numbers were 52/53 and our Contestant Numbers were 47/48, because five people ahead of us didn’t show up to Line #1 in time and got booted. Fair warning! After everyone is lined up, they set up a temporary photo green screen and each group has their picture taken. They are later found online and you can buy a copy for $24 on their website.
Price is Right
I hope this helps at least a few folks who have no idea what to expect when they get tickets to a taping of The Price is Right. I wish we knew then what we know now about how things really work, how long you wait in line, and what you can and can’t do.
I hope you get to “come on down” if you attend a taping! Cheers, and good luck!
Our whole family and some friends went indoor skydiving at Skyventure in Eloy, Arizona in August 2008. The trip was made in honor of Amy’s birthday. This is a compilation video of the photographs I took of the adventure.
UofP Stadium, Glendale, AZ
On Saturday, November 14th, Andrew and I took a tour of University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. This is the home of the Arizona Cardinals football franchise. It’s another one of those things we had been saying, “We should do that” for a long time now. Well, we finally did.
Having already completed the Chase Field tour (Diamondbacks baseball) we figured it would be more of the same. We were right – but this tour wasn’t as much fun as Chase Field. Unfortunately for us, the Seattle Seahawks had already arrived for Sunday’s game so we were unable to tour the locker rooms.
Inside UofP Cardinal Stadium
We spent a whole lot of time listening to the tour guide as we stopped at various spots around the main concourse. After a long while, we went down to the service corrider for a whopping two seconds and then he said we had to leave. We then went upstairs to the Loft level and saw the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority Loft. Lofts are a fancy way of saying Suites.
Cardinal's Player Entrance onto the Field
We were allowed into the Press Room which was pretty neat. We got to sit where all of the press sits during the game, and check out the amazing views through the glass of the entire stadium. And… that was about it. 90-minute tour over.
See more pictures of the University of Phoenix Stadium Tour on Flickr.
Jessica in the D'backs Dugout
On October 24, 2009 Andrew and I took the Light Rail downtown to go on a tour of Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s one of those things we kept saying we should do for years, but never seemed to get around to doing.
The tour was only $6 which I felt was quite a bargain for what we got to see and do. We started by rounding the field and learning lots of fun facts about the Dbacks and the field in general. We got to see the pool, and then headed downstairs to the visitor locker room. We visited a suite and learned more about the team, then got to go into the Diamondbacks dugout! It was a whole lot of fun, and I’m glad we finally went.
See more pictures of the tour on Flickr.
My sister Kathleen came out to visit Arizona to attend the Creating Keepsakes Scrapbooking Convention with me, October 1-3, 2009. The event was held at the Renaissance Hotel Glendale, next door to Westgate, Jobing.com Arena and the University of Phoenix Stadium. After a very delayed, very rough flight, things didn’t look too good at the end of the first night for us. Kathleen persevered through intense motion sickness, and we got things underway Thursday morning.
We had a very nice time at the convention, attending various classes, buying tons of stuff on the sales floor and cropping in our adjacent hotel rooms. We got a lot of scrappin’ accomplished together! Kathleen was working on the kids’ trip to California, and I was working on our tour of the UK and Ireland. I even bought a Cricut Expression and Kathleen showed me how to set it up and use it.
I didn’t even bring a camera, and Kathleen never used hers. How ironic is it that we attended a scrapbooking convention and didn’t take a single picture? Regardless, it was lots of fun! I’m so glad she was able to come out and join me for the weekend.
It has been almost two years since Andrew and I went to Vegas. That’s a record for us! We thought it was about time we got back up there. Since we’ve seen almost every show in town and been to every casino, it’s hard for us to find new things to do.
This time, we decided to stay at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino. What a DUMP. For real – it was a dump. Dirty walls and carpeting, old fixtures, paint chipping off the doors. For some strange reason, their rooms have a glass window allowing you to look directly into the bathroom from the bedroom area. Disgusting! Who wants to watch someone on the toilet? Uggh. I will never stay there again.
We were stretching it with the entertainment this time. We decided to go see Comedy Pet Theatre – a very kitchy show with cats and dogs. Mostly dogs. The performer tells a one-sided story of how he got kicked out of the circus and decided to take his pet show on the road. The little kids in front of us loved it, but Andrew and I were pretty bored. We wish he had done more with the cats. One thing to say about the performer though is his cats clearly loved him. Every time he walked by one, it would stretch out to greet him and want to be petted – he has a very good relationship with his pets. That was nice to see.
We went to the Pinball Hall of Fame to find a tournament in progress. It was absolutely packed with people! We couldn’t even get in on any of the machines to play. After another Cactus Cooler from the vending machine, we decided it was best to leave.
It seems Vegas has pretty much lost its charm for us these days. We used to go 3-4 times per year, but with nothing new in town and no exciting acts to see, it’s hard to justify the drive and the expense of a high class strip hotel
"Suite" at the Rio Las Vegas
Living Area with old TV
Window View from Bedroom into Bathroom
Mom and Me in Sedona
For the first time since May, 1999 my Mom came to visit me in Arizona. Ten years I’ve waited! Hooray! I took her casino hopping throughout the state, and ended up at our house for a small birthday party to celebrate my 32nd.
She flew in on September 2, 2009. I picked her up late in the evening and we headed up to Fort McDowell casino for the night. The following morning it was off through Payson on AZ-87 through Camp Verde. We went up to Sedona and checked out the beautiful views before heading back to Cliff Castle Casino for the night.
On the morning of the 4th, we drove back down to Phoenix. We visited the Shoot the Bull dart store where Mom picked up a few souveniers. Then it was off to see where I worked, and a few more casinos later we ended up at Gila River’s Wild Horse Pass for the evening. That’s one hotel and casino that is crazy confusing to traverse. The pool was beautiful though – the cost of staying there is worth it if you love to swim!
On the 5th, we headed over to the new Gila River Lone Butte to try our luck some more. Mom won all of her money back this time! Afterwards it was off to our house where Andrew threw me a very cute Hello Kitty birthday party. Karen and Jerry, Amy and Mason also came over and celebrated with me by playing Rock Band for a few hours. Then, Mom and I went over to the Hyatt Place Gilbert for one last night. This brand new hotel is gorgeous – the rooms are spacious and the staff was friendly. The pool was terrible though – slightly larger than a hot tub and cold as ice.
The next morning it was time for Mom to board her flight and go back home. I was sad to see her go, and hope she can come back out again sometime!
At the end of August, we took Mom and her friend Barbara up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I was the only one who had been there before, having visited in 1996 with my DaD. I had called a few months earlier and reserved the only two nights left at all for the summer: August 28-29, 2009.
Andrew and Jessica at North Rim
We arrived up after the very, very long drive on Saturday afternoon. It’s about 8 hours from Gilbert. We checked into our Pioneer Cabin and found it to be quite comfortable. None of us are considered hikers by any means, so we expected to stay at the rim and enjoy the views and the nice weather.
Scary Bright Angel Trail
We decided to hike out to Bright Angel Point before the sun went down. I had done this hike before – and was absolutely TERRIFIED of the narrow ledge out to the point. The others did not seem to be afraid of heights or the canyon, but I most certainly wasn’t looking forward to facing my worst fears again. Nevertheless, we decided to make a go of it.
Bright Angel Trail was a lot harder than I remembered it. With narrow paths, massive rock ledges and steep, steep hills, it is hard to traverse. About 3/4 of the way to the Point, Mom threw in the towel. She couldn’t go any further. She stopped on a rock and told us to go ahead without her. We were hesitant to leave her there but I knew we were very close to the end. Barbara, Andrew and I went out to the Point and took a look around briefly.
By the time we made it back to Mom she had made some new friends. A trail guide and his private tour customer were sitting next to her. The customer was very friendly and had advised Mom to take some aspirin if she felt ill. They were chatting it up and resting on the rocks. We said our goodbyes and thanked the two men for staying with Mom until we got back. It was at that time Andrew announced to Mom that she had just been shooting the breeze with Paul Simon! Sure enough we saw him later near the lodge with his family, and it most definitely was him. He was really, really nice. We decided not to blow his cover and approach him, as he seemed like he was having a very nice time with his family.
Sunset at North Rim
After Bright Angel Trail, we had dinner at the lodge. It certainly wasn’t anything to write home about. Just food – that’s about it. Time then allowed me to set up and capture a very beautiful sunset on the rim, along with some neat shots of Mom and the cabin. Then it was time to turn in for the night.
The following morning we headed out by car to see some of the outlying points. I had my 3D lens and captured some really neat shots of the points and some crazy tourist sitting out on the ledge of a rock. Mom decided she didn’t want to hike out to the points and stayed on the trail near the car. It really just wasn’t what she wanted to be doing.
On the way back to the cabin, I pointed out that it didn’t seem like any of us were really having a great time at the North Rim. Barbara and Mom both agreed – they didn’t want to stay anymore. I ended up going into the visitor center and found a couple who needed a room for the night. I worked it out with the registration desk to give us credit for the next night’s stay and the couple picked it up for the evening.
We packed up and headed out, not even 24 hours after arriving at the North Rim. On the way home we got to drive to Page and stop at Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam to do some more sightseeing. We took our time getting home and arrived back in Phoenix on Sunday night. I’m glad we went, but we most likely won’t be returning to the North Rim.
See more pictures from the trip on Flickr.
3D Crazy Guy on Ledge
Capturing the Sunset
Colorado River through the Trees