Saturday, December 31, 2005

I'd be good with that

The other day, Christy and Ainsley decided to have one of their famous book mornings. They get up out of bed, sit on the couch and read a pre-determined set/number of books. Normally this value is 10. Over the years we have joked that we could read books all day and Ainsley wouldn't get tired. She is a machine when it comes to books. We have always been curious how many books it would take to actually make her want to stop, how long of a time span would that take? On this magical day we set out to find out...

First, a small math lesson. Christy and Ainsley went over to the over filled bookshelves and compiled four piles of five books, twenty in total (that was the math, using reading to teach math, one of our more "out there" concepts). They slowly transferred them to the couch and started reading. I knew that I had to be a part of this too, no one adult can read that many books in one sitting without suffering some sort of permanent vocal chord damage. So Christy and I took turns reading two at a time.

In a little over an hour we burned through all 20 books and even read one of them a second time. It was fun, I think we all had a really great time. I looked at this now singular pile of 20 books and asked Ainsley "If we had another pile that same size, would you want to read them right now?". She responded, in all her hip-hopness "I'd be good with that". We didn't, Christy and I were tired. So once again Ainsley got the best of us, we were defeated again.

Later that day, we were down at the local book store. It was particularly busy that day, so while I was standing in line to order something Christy started reading Ainsley some books. When I was done Christy needed to wait in line back at the frame shop. Now it was my turn to read her some books. When we finished she would literally run the book back to the shelf, grab another and sprint back. We read another four books while we were there. So our tally is now at 25 books for the day and she still shows no sings of slowing down, being "bored" with books, or having here reading palette quenched.

We are now reading Charlotte's Web for the second time at her request. She really seems to enjoy that story. Of all the things a kid can be into reading books is pretty good, so I guess if her love for books continues and we continue to loose our battle in reading her into submission "I'd be good with that".

Monday, October 31, 2005

Another First

This last Saturday we, well Ainsley, participated in her first Parade. There are, however, some questions of this parade's authenticity and therefore whether or not this counts. Everyone knows that a parade is led by a fire truck, with lights flashing and ear-piercing sirens screaming. This is a parade fact. Well, shortly before the parade was to start the fire truck got an emergency 911 call and had to leave. This left the parade in a bit of a pinch. As a result the parade was led by a a white parks and recreation van. I know you know the van I am talking about. A long, white sterile looking Ford with the fake leather seats and old school hub caps. It didn't even honk its horn.


The van did lead us through about three blocks of residential Tenino in a "circle" fashion so that we ended up right where we started. Then it was party time. They converted the school's multi-purpose room into a multi-fun room. Free hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, face painting, crafts and large series of games. The kids played a "snow ball" fight with balloons, tug-a-war, bouncing ball races, hoola-hoop competitions, limbo,the hokey pokey and the chicken dance. It was pretty fun. Ainsley and her friends Onica and Iyla were really tearing it up. Ainsley won a large apple-banana cake during one of the last cake walks. Mmmmm, homemade cake.



We really had a fun time though. The best part for me was the announcement at the end that they had extra hot dogs. I guess the kids had had their fill and it was time to release the rest to the adults. It was like a shark feeding frenzy, all the dads smelled blood and rushed the table. We were still limited to one each. I tried to work the system and get Christy to go get me one, but she wasn't having it. Not much of a team player I say.

Check out the rest of the days photos.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Trippy Values

Here are some stats from the trip. As Ainsley would say, these will "bend your mind". O.K., they probably won't but I still think it is a pretty cute thing to say.









































MilesPriceGallonsTotalMiles/Tank
Total3935-126.36$388.78-
Avg.-$3.047.89$24.29204.51
Min.-$2.754.04$11.55148
Max.-$3.3810.04$31.02247










































FirewoodIceSmoresPostsPictures
Totalyikes15 bagsdouble yikes30415
Avg.$5$1.5032.2527.67
Min.$4$1.19217
Max$7$2.25?? (Ainsley)538

Memories made and good times had...priceless.

Surprises. The total amount spent on gas was much lower than I would have thought. We averaged around 24.5 MPG, which given the amount of weight we were hauling and the cartop carriers natural ability to cause a car to be less aerodynamic, I think this is pretty good. This is really good when you add in the large number of mountain passes we traversed.

I am also surprised that the number of pictures taken wasn't more. However, the total size of these pictures was about 1.4 gigs. So if you ask yourself why more pictures haven't been uploaded to Flickr, it's because the pictures are so big and it takes forever.

The total number of miles traveled is also a little shocking. I mean we didn't further East than Arizona and yet we logged more miles than a cross country trek.

I will probably do a review of the campgrounds and facilites by state at some point as well. Right now I would say that Oregon wins for best facilities (coin operated laundry, free showers and hot water in the bathroom sinks). More details to come later.

A big day

Yesterday was a big day. We started off playing in a local park until almost noon. Once we realized how late it was we got on the road. We made it from Baker City to Yakima by about 3:30. We found a huge field that was home to several soccer games. Ainsley has been talking about soccer for about 6 weeks so we grabbed a blanket and watched a game. It was pretty fun. She thought that she could probably run as fast as those kids so we had her running between our blanket and a field marker. We were timing her and told her that if she didn't get under 19 seconds she wouldn't get dinner. She tried really hard, pumped her arms and drove her legs up and down like pistons. Her best time...19.51. She was so sad when Christy and I were eating, she just starred at her water glass with a tears welled up in her eyes. Kidding...totally kidding.

I actually think that the running hollowed out one of her legs because she ate a ton of food at dinner. After we all ate we looked viewed a series of bronze art pieces that celebrating the produce industry that really drives Yakima. One of them was a horse saddle which is were Ainsley was giving riding lessons to anyone who had previously signed up (that would be me apparently).

We eventually made our way back to the car and decided that we were close enough to head home. So we drove the rest of the way home in Highway 12, which in darkness is a damn slow road. Taking into account the 1.5 near deer incidents we had, the curving road and the fatigue it took us awhile to get back. We eventually pulled in around 10PM last night.

One of the first things we did was test out the bed to see if it was as comfortable as we remembered. The build-up to this point over the drive had become quite large and thankfully the mattress didn't disappoint. It felt marvelous. I went out and grabbed our clothes bags and pillows. We quickly rummaged through the mail and then hit the sack.

As we lay there in bed none of us could really believe that we were home. We were on the road 19 days and yet we felt like we had to cut the trip short. Christy and I discussed how things would have been different if I didn't have to return back to WaMu. In all likelihood we would still be gone. We would have spent more time in Zion and Bryce and maybe found something else to do along the way home. It's all good though, I suspect that we will be visiting these places again in the future, although I doubt that they will all be on the same trip.

Today we are going to get the car back in order. This should really stink. I mean we have about 15 pounds of dead bugs on the cartop carrier alone. The headlight housing is wrought with dead insects as well. I had to clean the headlights during the trip just to allow light through. The inside of the car...well you can imagine what that looks like. It has really been our "home" over that last three weeks. Never once was it packed the same way twice. There are items that need to be found, namely my cell phone is MIA. I am confident that it is in the car, but it could be days before it is recovered.

One odd thing I noted. Bees seem to like dead bugs. Everything we stopped somewhere, we would come back and the car would have several bees swarming around it. Mainly we found them "munching" on the license plate and cartop carrier. It was weird. Ainsley is going through a period where bees really freak her out, so this made for some interesting times when getting back in the car. Of course there was the occasional time when a stray bee would get in the car. Three miles down the road it would appear and the screaming would ensue. I'd roll down her window and Christy would guide the bee out. Teamwork at its best.

It is safe to say that I am glad to be home, glad to be somewhere familiar and known. It is also safe to say that I am sad the trip is over. We had a really great time and saw some amazing stuff along the way. The accumulated time spent laughing would amount to hours. The amount of time spent enjoying the company of my girls was endless. I knew that I had missed them over the last 6 months, but I didn't realize how much I had missed. I missed being there when Ainsley woke up, I missed the snuggle time she likes after being sad or getting hurt. I missed watching the peacefulness of her sleeping. I missed having my wife make me laugh. Having this chance to reconnect with both Christy and Ainsley was great and very much needed. This was really the best the part of the trip, feeling like a family again.

Stay tuned, I will publishing some trip stats later. Maybe tomorrow depending on how the car goes (fingers crossed).

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Winding Down

Yesterday we left Utah in our rearview mirrors and made our way to Twin Falls, Idaho which is about 2 hours south of Boise. We made a playtime stop in Provo and found a cool little playground and played tag. Christy kept calling no touch backs as she grew tired of always being "it".

I am not sure when or how my opinion of Utah and Provo in particular was formed but I suspect that much of it came from the movie Fletch, the classic Chevy Chase film. I must admit these old opinions were wrong. Much of Provo is very nice, the setting is pretty and the city as a whole seems clean. Although we only drove another five minutes down the freeway to find smog. This area is like a smog net, being in a valley the smog just hovers around with nowhere to go. All along the freeway there are oil refineries that really ugly things up. On the whole though Utah suprised me - in a good way. There are definetly some beautiful areas.

I don't know where we are heading to today, we still have a lot of driving left to do and we woke up to rain this morning. So we must be getting close to home. The rain may put a damper (no pun intended) on our playtime stops. We'll have to wait and see. I can't believe that this trip is almost over. I feel like we had to cut it short and are now rushing to get back. This is really hard to believe given that we have been gone for over two weeks, but there is just so much to see. We could have easily spent more time in Zion and Bryce and who knows how much more time in the Grand Canyon. The good news is that we now know some good destinations for future trips. We probably won't drive to these places again, but we'll surely come back.

Talk to everyone soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fe

The fact that Iron causes the redness in the rock is obvious. The question that I have is whether it is Ferrous or Ferric that is present.

When I was a freshman in high school I took a correspondence geology course at the local community college. The program worked like this: you check out a series of video tapes, take a test then repeat. I watched five minutes of the first video and found it too boring. So I just went in and took the test. Every two weeks or so I would go in and take a test. No videos, no reading, nothing occurred in between. I got a B+ in the course, the problem is that I didn't learn a thing (shocking I know). I am now really kicking myself . If only I had applied myself then I could be spewing all kinds of useless info onto Ainsley's defenseless little ears right now.

24,1000,1.2,,60,8000

That's a canyon on the North Fork Virgin River
that's only 24 feet wide with 1000 foot walls on the sides. This was in Zion. The 1+ mile hike follows the river all of the way. It even sports a small grassy area that was housing 5 sunbathing deer. The views were great, the temperature was perfect and the water crystal clear. A great little hike. The only issue is that on the way out Ainsley got too tired and I had to carry her on my shoulders. Not too big of a deal, but I did get a little tired.

We then took the shuttle over to the Weeping Rock and hiked their. It was a short .25 mile hike, mostly up hill. Ainsley powered through it. At then end you are literally showered with views of the weeping rock. The mountains of Zion are sandstone which allows water to work its way through the mountains. It eventually seeps out of the rock and in several places creates "hanging gardens" as vegetation is allowed to grow with from this water source. At this particular spot the water is really flowing and creates a beautiful scene from a shallow cavern out onto the rest of Zion.

We got to go through the 1.2 mile tunnel again. You can't help but marvel and the engineering feat that this tunnel represents while traveling through it. I quickly perused a book at the information center about the tunnel. It was completed in 1930! I was stunned to learn that it was that old and that they were able to accomplish such an unimaginable feat with the equipment of that day. They finished 6 days off the schedule because they took some extra time on a bridge. I can think of a lot of building projects that wished they were only 6 days late.


While all of this sounds great, and it was, it did pose a little bit of a problem.
As you may recall we had to stay in Hurricane which is about a 30 drive from the park. Our plan was to get up a little early and then do one quick hike and head over to Bryce for a quick peek and then head north to Provo. Well this didn't work out at all. By the time we had all of the fun I mentioned above and ate a little lunch we didn't leave Zion until around 4PM. Damn those interesting sites.

The new plan is to get to Bryce and just drive through, take some pictures from the car and move onto Provo. Yeah that is a lot of driving so late in the day but we need to get it done. So off to Bryce we go.

60 miles and about 1 hour and 45 minutes later we are in Bryce. It is truly amazing how much the geography can change in just 60 miles. The terrain between these two parks is nowhere near the same. It is hard to believe that these two sites are within the same state let alone so close. We caved and pulled into the first lookout point. Just a quick peek. Well that didn't work out. We walked along the rim for a little bit and found a trail that curved its way down to the bottom. Off we go.

It is awesome and a little awe-inspiring to be surrounded by these gorgeous and colorful spires and stretch up into the sky. We knew we had to go so we were going to just go down a couple of switchbacks and then come back. The scenery is like geological crack. Once you get a little you need more. Just one more corner, one more switchback, one more curve - just to see what it looks like over there. The hike was pretty easy and we reached the bottom in about 15-20 minutes. We kicked around for a couple of minutes and then I noticed it was almost 20 after 6 and the sun was going to set soon. We needed to get out of there before dark.

The issue now was that it was steep and we were sitting at 8000 feet. This is not an altitude we are used to hiking at. The air burned the throat a bit and the heart beats were hitting somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 beats per minute. I could feel my calf starting to burn - I suppose the lack of oxygen was showing me who was boss. We were able to make it out in about 35 minutes or so. I am so glad that we did it though. The hike was super. Ainsley was able to make it all the way back out by herself. I was really impressed, she required a little more rest but she did it.

We decided to make a B-line for the exit at this point knowing that we were too weak to resist another hike if presented. We hit Hwy 89 and make it to Richfield, which is a little south of center Utah. No this isn't Provo. The good news is that we really don't have any major sights between here and home to mess with our schedule any further. Fingers crossed that nothing else catches our eye.

Check out our photos of Bryce and Zion.

Photos - 9/25/05

More Photos of the Grand Canyon and Arizona.

Enjoy.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Large Numbers

I was thinking about our Vegas trip and was curious how many people are employed by the strip alone. Think about how many people this must be. The number of cab drivers, bell hops, registration assistants, waiters, busers, water refillers, janitors, dealers, pit bosses, ticket takers and so forth that all need to be staffed 24x7. Then you add in the specialty people like the show employees (magicians, contortionist, comedians, musicians, lighting people, stage hands, etc), those who row the gondolas and sing in the hallways of The Venetian, the people who put together the shark exhibit at Mandalay Bay. This number must be staggering.

If you consider the multiplier effect that the strip must have on the national economy you would have to consider Vegas one of the true gems in our GDP.

Viva Las Vegas!!

Switcharoo

Hike hike hooray! We had one full day in the Grand Canyon so we decided to make the most of it and take a small hike. We chose to do the same trail that Christy took when she was here for her class. The Bright Angel Trail provides one of many paths from the rim to the bottom. There are warnings that you shouldn't attempt to go to the bottom and back in one day - many people have suffered serious injury or death in their attempts. So I don't see why two people with a four your old shouldn't be able to do it. Just kidding. We started off and knew that Ainsley's little legs weren't going to get far, but we would just enjoy whatever we could do. I really wanted to make it to Indian Gargen which is the half way point on this trail. This wasn't going to happen but it sounded fun. We talked to a lot of people along the way. One of which was finishing up a trip that started on the North Rim and was finishing on the South Rim. This trips sounds really great and we hope to someday take our kids on that same trip. This is going to be many years down the road, but I am already excited.

The trail itself was pretty mild, a lot of swichbacks and a fairly gently incline. Once we got to the steep part of the trail we stopped, enjoyed some Mountain Blast Powerade and pears and headed back up. The whole hike only last about 90 minutes. The views were fantastic. We did see some California Condor which are one of the most endangered birds in the country. For some reason some of them have migrated to the canyon and others have been "planted" there. They seem to be thriving.

In the campsite we were visited by several large crow-like ravens. Imagine the biggest crow you have ever seen and then triple it. That is what these ravens looked like. They could have easily eaten our car if they chose to. The night was filled with the squels and moans of several elk. I don't know much, but I would guess by the sound of things that there was a mother looking for her child. The call and answer type squaks lasted all night long until daylight. Hopefully everything worked out for them.

At the start of the Grand Canyon Imax the narrater said something like "the Grand Canyon either proves the existence of God or proves the sheer power of nature". I don't know if these two are that different, but I will say that this area is heavenly and is truly a work of art.

What If

Me: What has been your favorite part of the trip so far?
Ainsley: The Jelly Belly factory.
Me: Is that because they gave you free candy at the end?
Ainsley: Yeah.
Me: If they hadn't given you free candy would it still be your favorite?
Ainsley: No.
Me: What would be then?
Ainsley: The Grand Canyon, its beautiful.

Arizona

We traveled along the East Rim of the Grand Canyon today. It is remarkable how much the views of the canyon change in a matter of minutes. Every few minutes the trees would allow a glimpse of the canyon and it looked totally different. We ended up pulling into several of the look out points just to see the "new" canyon. One of the best was the Watchtower which is an old stone tower built by Indians. It offers some great views of the North Rim.

Today we drove along Highway 89A in Arizona today. This was pretty amazing. The Echo Cliffs and Vermillion Cliffs are really great. The scenery throughout Arizona is really incredible. After traveling throughout the state I would have to say that it should be required viewing. The entire state is one gigantic geological scrape. Everyone in the United States should have to go and spend time here. Everyone.

We made it to Zion today. This is another totally new experience. The scenery is again completely different and astonishing. We had some trouble getting a place to stay. There are two campgrounds in the park, both were full. There is a cute little city just on the other side of the park called Springdale that has a very large selection of hotels. All of which were also full. The next town has some nice bed and breakfast spots...full. The next town has a bar...it looked full but we didn't stop to check. Hurricane. however, eventually proved good. We got the last room in the hotel. Ainsley and I went swimming and have made the best of it. Tomorrow will be making our way back to the park and then to Bryce. After that we will try to make it up to Provo. It appears that the next few days are going to be full of driving. We have enjoyed ourselves so much up to this point that we have used up a lot of time. Perhaps a little too much. Thankfully I have changed my date to get back to work so that will help a little.

Wide Open Spaces

I know that the Dixie Chicks are from Texas and I am pretty sure that their song Wide Open Spaces was written about their home state. However, I have seen some pretty nice and incredible wide open spaces along our travels thus far. Today provided even more great views along highway 93 in Arizona. One of the strangest things we noted was how fast the scenery changed. One moment you are in the desert surrounded by brown baron land complete with tumbleweeds and cacti. The next minute you are in rolling green hills flushed with trees. Sometimes the scenery looks just like home or a trip over the pass to Eastern Washington. Other times the car window was like a movie screen showing a movie never before seen.

This trip has shown us so many things that we haven't seen before. A few days ago as we traveled California Highway 15 prior to reaching Calico, we drove through miles and miles of cotton fields. Real live cotton fields. We didn't know such things existed in California – for a minute we thought that we had taken a very wrong turn somewhere. A few miles later we saw fig, almond and orange trees. Before reaching Morro Point we saw avocado fields. A few days before that, on the way to Monterey, we drove through several miles of artichokes.

This trip has been a real agricultural experience for us. Today we shifted gears a bit and moved into geology phase. First up was the Grand Canyon Imax just before we entered the park. It was pretty neat, part of me wants to shoot the rapids of the Colorado River and part of me thinks it is a rather stupid idea. We stopped just inside the park entrance to see the Grand Canyon for the first time. Well it was the first time for Ainsley and I. Christy came here back in 1993 on a geology class field trip. The trip itself was the class. So I am expected to learn a whole bunch of stuff from her while we are here. I am sure that she will ask me to put on my continuity glasses so that I can see how the area looked before the canyon was carved out over millions of years.

I will say that the first view of this wonder of nature truly inspires shock and awe. Looking across the canyon and seeing each strip of different colored rock – each one represented a relatively small swath of time, each one representing a major event in the earth's history and each one proving just how little time we have been here and how incredibly power nature is. There is a movie called Grand Canyon, the character played by Danny Glover states that standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon makes you realize how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things, that we populate our place on earth for such a minute amount of time. The movie is really good and makes you think.

Despite the fact that that we are here only a fraction in geological time we must do our part to keep things in balance and minimize our impact. Not to get too preachy but I implore people to do what they can.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pirates, Volcanoes and Fountains oh my

For those of you wondering why I haven't posted lately I can explain in a few short words. We just spent the last three nights in Vegas at the Mandalay Bay. We were originally going to stay two nights but we were having such a good time and wanted to really experience Vegas. As for what we did, all I can say is that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Really though we had a great time. The Mandalay has a very cool wave pool and lazy river that we took full advantage of. Ainsley just floated and floated with her water wings. Cutest thing on the water..at least under 31.

Both nights we attempted to watch the Pirate show at Treasure Island it was canceled. The first night it started to rain. Not really, there were about four rain drops that fell over the whole strip and they pulled the trigger. The lightning storm that was going on was pretty cool though. The second cancellation was because of wind. What kind of pansy pirates can't take a little wind? Lame. Ainsley was pretty disappointed. The weather was really good though. There was a small period of clouds and "rain" and "wind", but that cleared up quickly and has been in the 90's. We are pretty happy.

The Venetian provided some cool entertainment with the gondola ride. The Bellagio's fountain shows were neat. Pretty impressive really. The Mirage has the volcano which allowed Ainsley the chance to learn a little bit more about how volcanos work - so she said. She was a little scared beforehand but once it all happened she couldn't stop talking about it. Really she couldn't stop talking about it.

Christy and I have both been to Vegas before, three or four times each. Transportation and maneuvering around the strip has never been an issue. This time around we became very aware of how far away things are once you account for the four miles of walking you have to do just to leave your hotel. Once you have traversed the labrynth that is a Vegas hotel you have to walk around the strip. Sure, a hotel may only be "two hotels down" but that is the equivalant of 17 city blocks. When you have a four year old that has to take three steps to your one you become aware of how much walking you are doing. She did her best, she rode on my shoulders quite a bit and was a real trooper the whole time. When we left today, we were about a hour outside of Vegas when Ainsley stated that she missed Vegas. Me too. I can't wait to take another vacation there with the girls.

Today we crossed the Hoover Dam and tonight we are in Kingsman, Arizona. Another state - or another country in Ainsley's eyes. She is convinced that each state is really a different country. Vegas really confused this issue since just about ever person we saw spoke French or German. They too thought she was cute. Let's face it, her beauty has international appeal.

Tomorrow has the Grand Canyon in store. We are going to be staying at the Mather campground on the South Rim. Two nights there and then on to Bryce and Zion.

Till then...

Monday, September 19, 2005

A message from Ainsley

rjrurui3u3iwijwhjrdn hjehejjjejiwjwwhhwhh4u7yuuuhdhdssyy
4rejhhduhehhgegefdgfgyrtru6747ehgwhgeywtewteywtgtwy66787
6wgugwjqfwtqfwqqjwwjbwbwh ehewhwhhhdfgfhrrrrekrjeejrejke
wkeokagghfrhrrjhfekrowjewwuiuw3u2u2wiu786786876egwegjwee
qgwqgwgqjwgqwqhwqkhqiwhquuuuuuuuuuu28uwqwqhqjwqwhjqwhjqu
gwyugwqugwqjgjqgwyqgugwgfdgghffgytftgfayhdgsjdfgjfhkvjdj
hdhddhshdh1u19u2hqahjxhkhchehwwgjwey2ggwgwwgt6e7676868wh
gquwhqfwyqyreegregrfegeugeweeeeyeytwdffsssfheehuehjhwhsh
heiehweywwyuetyuyey2ywqywqjejjwkejwejwjewejwheuhejreoeui
reiriei3ueiw7eeyfgfdgddsdsdhdfefdghdgsgadhsghdghsgdjsggd
gsgddhdhdgfgjdhfjdgfjdgfjd

ainsley

[note: this message is encrypted, the first person that
cracks the code wins a special prize. The prize itself
is a secret that I will only share with the winner.]

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Photos - 9/18/2005

More photos have been uploaded.

Our photos

I see people wanted dead or alive

Last night was spent at the campgrounds at the Calico Ghost Town. We pulled into the campground around 4PM, drove through the 250 or so sites a couple of times before picking "the best one". We had lots to choose from. There were quite a few people there, but most were RV's and it was no where near capacity. So I pulled out the tarp to start setting up camp.

Well somewhere in the literature about this area it neglected to state that it was natures wind tunnel. To further compound the problem, our "perfect" spot created a natural bowl shape and magnified the force and speed of the wind by about 100 orders of magnitude. It really came whipping through there. It was insane. I could not get the tarp down to save my life. I tried using these large rocks that littered the campground, the same size of stones you would use to create a small fire pit. This didn't work. All I have done now is created a 10x20 sling-shot the allowed the wind to toss these three and four pound rocks around like marshmallows. Now its is both windy and an occupational hazard. I continue to try while Ainsley and Christy are off to pay. I did succeed at one point in creating a tunnel with the tarp that would have been a great testing ground for Boeing. They could have tested just about any wing configuration under this thing and gotten credible results. I finally gave up and waited for my girls to come back. I was going to need help.

We eventually got the site up and running when the ranger came by to have us pay. He noted our license plate and then reminded us that we are in the desert. O.K. That means that there are snakes here and once the sun goes down they come out. Awesome. Now most people now that I have a fear of snakes, quite an unhealthy one at that. So this news didn't go over to well with me. The rangers advised us to build a big fire and that would keep them away. You asked for it. We built a raging fire (see below). It would have done the people at Morro Point proud. While attempting to eat dinner huddled next to this inferno I heard a noise. A rustling in the nearby bushes. Our flash light was rendered almost useless by the darkness of the night. We tried and tried to pinpoint the noise and then...then, Christy was able to zero in on it. She told me to pick up Ainsley and then I saw it too. A small mouse was scampering about. No big deal. Although my brain doesn't work that way. I know that snakes like to eat mice, so they must be near by. The wind was still blowing so there were lots of noises, everyone of them I was sure was a huge snake coming to end my days.

We proceeded to dump a few liters of water on the great fire of 2005 and head to bed...at 8 o'clock. We zipped up that tent tighter than it has ever been zipped before. I do believe we load tested the seams beyond anything the manufacture could have imagined. The wind continued throughout the night, gusting to levels I can only imagine were in the 4 digits. There were a few times when the bottom of the tent (fully staked into the ground) literally starting to lift off the ground. Neither Christy nor I slept all that well. The noise was too much for her by sheer volume. The noise was too much for me by sheer possibility of what it could be. My mind raced all night and when I did sleep I conjured up some real whoppers in the dream department.

We spent a couple of hours this morning touring (photos) the actual ghost town. It was pretty cool. There was a small train trip that took you through parts of the old mining town. The area were the mine opening is, where the houses once stood and the site of "China Town". Apparently there were 40+ Chinese people that live in Calico during the silver rush there and they alone constituted "China Town". We watched a gun fight between a bandit and the sheriff and drank real sasparilla soda.

See the photos of the fire and Ainsley's attempt to make the smoke go away here

Animal House

The second night at Morro Point was interesting to say the least. While I thought the night at the KOA was non-camping, this second night proved to be even more so, although in a totally different way. First, the family reunion next door ended with a tally of two SUV's, a minivan, four tents and somewhere around 5 loud and seemingly troublesome children. There was one kid, Elijah, that was continuously getting yelled at. We felt bad for the kid, he couldn't do anything right. There is no way that he was actually causing as much trouble as he was getting into.

One of the things that made it strange was that people were still showing up at 10 o'clock at night. Trying to navigate their trailers into sites that were too small in near total darkness. Most of the other sites were literally red and orange from the bonfires that were burning. Everyone was burning these ridiculously large fires that night. Further, just outside the bathroom, was a group of people camping out of a 70's pimp van. This automobile was right out of an episode of CHiPs. It has the classic wide orange strip that offset the natural brown exterior. The interior was flushed with brown shag carpet and some sort of living room arrangement. The people driving this van couldn't have been more text book for their car. I mean the guy driving the thing had the ultimate farmers tan, drank cheap beer from a can, wore a Rambo style knife on his hip and wore the grungiest baseball cap in existence. I know that you can totally picture this guy. Now picture the 10 year old version of this guy...he was there too. He was the one who had constructed a gigantic T-shaped wood object to catch on fire. Once the crossbar of the "T" was aflame he felt the need to wave it around as if directing airport traffic. This was both a forest fire and major injury just waiting to happen. The rest of the campground was basically an outdoor version of Animal House. Loud, rowdy, obnoxious, never-ending. With the noted absence of togas and John Belushi it could have been a sequel. The working title could be Animal Out-House. A work in progress for sure.

Several times that night Christy and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. We kept saying "I've never see anything like it...this isn't camping". The real shocker of the story is that nearly the whole campground was up and going by 7:30 the next morning. That was really hard to believe. We were hoping to get up early and make a bunch of noise to rattle their cages, but they hosed us on that too.

Lost in Translation

The other day at Morro Point when Ainsley and I were wave crashing I told her "run like the dickens". The next wave she told me "run like a chicken with its wings coming off". The dickens to chickens exchange I can pretty much understand...but the addition of the wings section is still a mystery.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Fore Fowls

[Note: I am not that bad of speller, these two words were intentional. Read on.]

Just outside Monterey, in Carmel, there is a 17 mile drive. Along this drive there are three golf courses, the most notable is Pebble Beach. While I would never call myself a golfer I would say that I appreciate the "sport". So saying that I was at Pebble Beach would be pretty cool. So just go already right? In typical California fashion, there is a charge to drive this 17 mile stretch of road - $8.50. My caveman math automatically rounds that up to $10 bucks. $10 bucks to drive a road...huh!?

So I paid it. This is really just a gated community that happens to house one of the most famous golf courses in the world. Some of the houses were fabulous. Stucco mansions, huge sweeping landscaped yards over looking the ocean. Pretty much what you would expect. There were, however, a fair amount of just mediocre houses. House with brown overgrown grass in the front yard. Houses with mossy roofs, siding in desperate need of a power wash and fresh paint and houses with a '84 Tercel parked in the driveway. Houses that reminded me of our first house in Renton before we took over. Places that shouldn't be allowed to charge people to drive by. Maybe they should take some of that money they are collecting and put it towards a restoration project for some of these shacks. Or maybe they could take some of that money and put some scented candles along the beaches and reeked of rotten fish and garbage. Maybe they could do something that makes it more obvious why they are charging to drive on their pavement. Maybe line the road with free candy, make the road out of gold or have "free" limo rides along this trek. Something...just something.

Today was spent on the beach here in Morro Bay. It was a glorious day. The sun was shinning, the surf was churning in big beautiful waves and there was a gentle cooling breeze that provided the perfect setting. Ainsley and I made two tremendous sand caves to hide our treasures. Then we sat and enjoyed a snack, just the two of us...and about 400 seagulls. I believe they are the best evidence of evolution. These damn birds can sense the cracking of a mini-cooler from 300 yards away. With a single sqwah they rally the troops and swoop in to harrass you for food. Nothing deteres them. Nothing. You can chase them on foot, but this only allows the ones on the other side to creep that much closer. You can throw rocks, but this tossing motion only excites them even more. Now they believe you are tossing morsels of goodness to them. Wings flap and feathers fly and more birds come dive-bombing in. It is no wonder Hitchcock made a movie.

Ainsley and I had a blast though. The waves proved a admirable foe today as we chased them all over the beach. We showed our superior running ability and tossed pebbles into the oncoming waves all while taunting the mighty ocean for bigger, stronger waves. What a treat it was. I cherised today. We laughed, got sandy, got wet, got more sandy, talked and then laughed some more. What a delight. I do believe that she is the coolest kid ever.

We ended the day with a small hike around the marina and the local golf course. Ainsley decided that she wants to play golf. Annika Sorenstam watch out. Maybe we can retire early. I am off to roast some marshmallows.

Later.

You had to know

We didn't get to the campground until pretty late last night - around 7:45. I really don't care for setting up the site in the dark, but it went pretty well. There are not a lot of trees here and the moon was close to full, so we had some of natures night light to help us. We picked one of the only sites that didn't have people on both sides. Can you guess where this is going?

After we got setup and started to settle in a big SUV pulled into the campsite next to us, a RV moved in behind us and the madness began. The people next to us must have been from a circus. The number of people that unloaded from this thing was beyond comprehension. Most of them were under 3 years old and already crying. Nice. The dad seemed to be in a bad mood and was yelling off and on. After they setup their site the dad left and returned about 15 minutes later with more people! Then around the middle of the night just as I was in between sleep cycles two more cars arrived at the site. Two! I am guessing this was some type of family reunion or something since the dads stayed up late shooting the breeze. Fantastic.

The really odd thing is, at 9:20AM they are already starting to take some of the site apart. What's the deal with that?

It's all good, all part of the adventure. I wouldn't want it any other way...well that might be a stretch. Ainsley slept throught the whole thing so I guess I really don't have any complaints.

Later.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Here fishy fishy fishy

The Monterey Bay Aquarium really lived up to its reputation today. Not only is it large it is well laid out and provides an enormous number of opportunities to buy stuff (there were four or five different shops). It makes sense that the aquarium is so large though, the way I figure it, they pulled in about $25/hour during the 4.5 hours we were there. That should build a nice place. Truthfully, I was impressed with the large selection of wildlife, the exhibits themselves and the knowledge of there volunteers. Kudos.

Today was an off day, no detours. We did make it down to San Louis Obispo today. Actually we are a little north at Morro Bay State Park campground. The campground is internet ready by the way. What's the deal with that? Not to say I don't appreciate it, but is it really necessary to be connected when you are sleeping in dirt? Have we maybe pushed the technology availability a little too far. I thought the fact that most Starbucks were hotspots was a little silly, but this surely takes the cake. I suppose I could object and not partake, but what kind of tech nerd would I be then?

All the same, we are going to just hang out here for a couple of nights. No plans other than playing at the beach. Sounds tough.

Cheers.

It's not just good, it's good for you.

Today was spent at the Jelly Belly factory in Farfield, California. As you may recall, Ronald Regan was a big fan of Jelly Bellys, as a result there was quite a large collection of Regan memorbellia, incuding Jelly Belly portraits of Regan and his biggest fan, the Governator, Arnold.

The tour was pretty good, the process is pretty neat to watch, but the most impressive thing is the number of Jelly Beans that create each day. Seeing hundreds of trays of sitting there...waiting to be eaten....waiting...staring back at you, laughing at the fact that you are behind a wall of glass unable to touch them. It is actually pretty cruel.

The facility does have a pretty neat cafeteria with Jelly Belly shaped burgers and Jelly Belly shaped pizzas. We all had burgers, they tasted like grapes and cherries. Not really, but that would make sense.

The gift shop proved to be a dangerous place. Dangerous indeed. They have several new flavors, an ice cream shop and fancy chocolates. Christy managed to spend the GDP for most third world countries there. They really liked us. A marching band escorted us out to the car even. Alright, that may be a small exaggeration, but I think you get the point.

Today's detour was Santa Cruz. We spent some time on the beach, chasing waves, being chased by waves, generally getting wet and sandy. The water still isn't warm which turned out alright as we were hot from the car ride. A nice beach and a better rejuvination spot.

Tonight we are in Monterey, California. No camping tonight either, there are no camping parks within 30 miles of Monterey. Strange given that the whole city is surrounded by beaches. Most of the cool hotels don't even have swimming pools, apparently it is a law. Huh? We are staying in the Monterey Plaza. Talk about extremes, from camping to a plaza hotel with valets, marble floors and fancy duvets covers. We're kicking it real. Tomorrow holds the promise of a great day. The Aquarium awaits.

Till then...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Photos

This isn't much, but it is a very brief glimpse of some of our photos.

Enjoy.

Photos

Another Day, Another Detour

The allure of the Russian Gulch and the Devils Punchbowl was simply too much. After taking a brief tour of Willits (a cool alternative type town) we headed West on Hwy 20 to the beach. As we approached the coast we could see, in the distance, overcast skies...or more to the point, our destination (of course). We first went to the beach access at the gulch. It was about 4 degrees Kelvin - that 4 degrees above absolute zero for you non science nerds. It was freezing. I was surprised to see waves as I thought surely the ocean was turning to ice. Ainsley promptly sat down and started making sand castles. She wasn't going to squander this moment out of the car.

After about 30 minutes of frost-bitten fun, we headed back up to the bluff and the home of the actual Devils Punchbowl. It was a pretty cool work of nature. I will have to say though, the views from the remainder of the bluff were just as spectacular if not more. We spent quite some time walking around this area. Ainsley decided that we were good "rock climbers" as we scaled a small grouping of rocks. That's us, real outdoorsmen. You'll be seeing our reality show on OLN in a couple of weeks.

Next up, California Hyw 1. That is one, as in one highway that is cool to drive...once. This road provides some fantastic views and images of a coastline that neither of us expected to see in California. It was very reminiscent of the Oregon coast. The downside is that it is a very, very, very slow road. We had to travel this road for about 75 - 90 miles. This took almost the whole day. Before I continue, I must give credit where credit is due. My mother-in-law warned us about this road. She said we would be tempted to take it, but to avoid it because it was so slow. Well, after visiting the gulch we were essentially at the point of no return and had to take it. I cursed her for being right many times as I took some of the hairpin turns at 5 MPH. So we didn't get to our next destination until 7PM. Luckily, this destination was my buddy Tim's place in Livermore. So there was no tent to setup, no dinner to prepare, no major unpacking.

We had a good dinner out with Tim and Steph (his girlfriend) followed by an excellent stop at a Cold Stone. We had a grand time and shared a lot of laughs. Some of them we are my expense, some were at Tim's. He's a good sport about that type of thing.

Monday, September 12, 2005

If you don't get dirty are you still camping?

A few things took a little longer than expected today, plus we had some of the requisite detours, so we didn't make as far along the trail as we had hoped. So instead of camping at the Russian Gulch State Park we are staying at the Willits KOA.

Christy put it best when she called it "sanitized". This place boast a swimming pool, petting zoo (llama, ponies, sheep and goats), go-carts, a mock old time town, an on-site store and hot tub. I can't in all good conscience call this camping. I mean we don't even need a tent here (we are staying in a "K"abin). The bathrooms have hot running water and electric hand dryers. This is probably a step above a motel 6 for crying out loud.

I must also state an interesting observation. We are really the young ones amongst the geriatrics. First, every campground we have been to so far has been riddled with 200 foot motorhomes, all of which are captained by Agnes and Harold who retired back in 1908 and have been traveling the nations by-ways ever since.

We did meet an interesting couple from Germany last night. They were trying to commission Ainsley to crawl into the small window above the cap of their rented motorhome. It was about 9:30 at night, very dark and their keys were locked inside. Ainsley was already asleep and they had half the campground working on the problem. Eventually they were able to slide another window open and use a knife to unlock the side door. There was one guy there they seemed to be able to open any window on the motorhome...that was a little suspect. I made sure my car doors were locked that night.

Cheers.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

We moved in mysterious ways

Today was very mysterious. We decided to partake on all of the tourist splendor of the Trees of Mystery today. It was only about 10 minutes from our campsite which has already provided us with copious wildlife (elk, rabbits, quail). It has been nice. Although they have entirely too many warnings for bears...

Weight a minute

Yes weight. It seems that the word Siskiyou is Indian for "trap all rain clouds". As we passed over the mountains we got several rain storms. Not a big deal normally, but with the large amount of dust we accumulated from the logging roads our car now has an odd mocha paste on it. This paste is really weighing down the car, along with all our other stuff and the gas mileage is suffering. We plan to wash when next convenient, but I am sure as soon as we do we will be stuck in some weird dust storm or road construction.

Day 2 – Detour 2 Going Burl-Esque

Even though this is a family show, today's detour went in a risque Burl-Esque direction. Actually it wasn't that way at all. Despite traveling at 50 MPH Christy's eye was caught by a large collection of Burl wood structures. So we turned around in the vast parking lot of the Kerby Community College (nothing more than a converted Grange hall) and went back. There are two reasons why I am glad that we did, and one reason I am sorry.

First, this particular Burl wood gallery is nothing short of amazing. It was really a commune of shacks that housed different hand made items, ranging from handmade moccisons, hemp necklaces, intricate pottery and probably the most ecletic collection of Burl woods items anywhere in the world. These were not your typical burl end tables made by your uncle, or the fugly clock that has been in the family for years. These were true works of art. Beautifully crafted clocks, mirrors, cribbage boards, carvings, chairs, fountains and benches. If I were of different means I could have easily spent 50K in this place – the hardest part would have been choosing which items not to buy.

On the grounds there was series of tree houses that put the Swiss family Robison attraction at Disneyland to real shame. Everywhere you turned was another collection of wares that were both inspiring and overwhelming. The actual buildings that these people worked in were works of art themselves. Huge wood columns with intriccate carvings in them. Truly beautiful.

All of the people at this “mall” are real artists whose will never be famous, never be rich and mostly never be discovered. I believe that they do it all for the chance to express themselves through their work and to produce something with integrity and spirit.

The second reason I am glad that we went there is because while we were there we were told of a couple who went to Crater Lake yesterday (the same day that we tried). It turns out that actually made it to Crater Lake only to find it engulfed in a “blizzard” which rendered the lake unviewable.

The reason I am sorry we were there is because we couldn't decide on a piece to buy. There were a couple of clocks that we were eyeing but nothing was ever decided. This is too bad because I so wish we could have supported these people. I wanted buy something if for no other reason than to show my appreciation for having spent the last 1.5 hours looking at their work. I wish that I could have expressed my admiration to them.

We didn't do too much driving today, we stopped at a beautiful beach shortly before finding our campground. I was a little dissapointed that it wasn't warmer...we are in California after all. I must say that the Redwoods are living up to all of the hype. These are amazing testaments to nature. When passing by a series of very large trees we commented about how strong the trees were. Ainsley then asked if they would be strong enough to hold 100 monkeys. Chances are good unless one of the monkeys was Curious George.

Day 1 – Detour 1 => Driving by the seat of our pants

It is often stated that first impressions are important. I suppose this is true enough, although I believe every “rule” has its exceptions. If I were to have followed this rule today, then this trip would have been considered doomed from the get-go.

First, we left about 2 hours later than we expected. As a result we ran into a little more traffic than we would have liked. We knew that once Ainsley woke up we were going to stop, you know be free-form and try not to be too regimented in our schedule. So when she woke up around 9:30 we stopped at the closest park. After some good swinging and sliding we got back to it. We gauged that we would be at the first campground around 1:30PM if we drove straight through. Since we couldn't check in until 4PM we might as well take a detour to Crater Lake. I've never been there, so let's do it...let's be “crazy” and ad-lib this part of the trip.

If you recall we bought a new atlas for this trip, it was a steal at 9 bucks. Great deal huh? Too good to be true? Sadly the only way to find this out is through experience. So how exactly do you judge the quality of an atlas? Well I would say the best indicator of quality is the detail of the maps and the ability to get you from point A to point B. That being said, I believe that this 9 dollars was approximately $8.45 too much. The granularity of this “map” is rather poor. You can't tell where to turn which road numbers to follow and many of the places you are actually in aren't listed on the page!! Needless to say that we, and the trip, took a few bad turns. I wouldn't say we were lost...men don't get lost. But I will say we were...confused. Very confused. We ended up at a sign stating “End of Pavement”, at which point we thought we were close to our destination. Several washboarded gravel switchbacks later we are at another junction we come to a crossroads. Literally and figuratively. We have been driving for about “forever” and all signs point to another eternity to go. We are now deep within the logging and forestry service roads of Oregon. The car is starting to overheat , we have no cell phone reception and really can't turn back.

On we go, yet to encounter the “narrow road” that is actually a stretch of road that is nearly all washed out and barely passable, more washboard switchbacks and more poorly marked turns that leave us scratching our heads in indecision. After 75 miles , a few hours of driving, enough dust to actually reasemble a miles worth a rocks and some rather tense and frustrated moments we make it “out”. Paved roads, passing cars, buildings. It was glorious. Sure, we didn't make it to Crater Lake, and by the looks of it on the map, we weren't really that close. However, we ended up checking into our campsite about 5 o'clock and were quickly greated by a young deer. Ainsley has quickly claimed the top bunk in our first ever Yurt experience, the sun is shinning and things are looking great.

So luckily we didn't follow the first impressions rule, if we had we would probably have driven back home by now and ordered a pizza. I would assume that the trip can only get better from here and if this is all of the “trouble” we are going to see this trip I am thrilled to have gotten it out of the way.

Cheers.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Blue Man Poo

Well, despite our best laid plans, it appears our wishes to see the Blue Man Group in Vegas are shot. We have learned that they are leaving their current home at the Luxor and moving to the Venetian. Of course there is a transition period...which coincides with our stay in Vegas. They stop performing on the 15th, we'll be there on the 18th. Terrific. The good news is that I am taking it harder than Ainsley is. Actually much harder. I was really wanting to see the show. We should have known that once we got a good deal on the room rate for these days that something else would give. I mean the laws of nature and economics (aren't they the same?) state that things must equilibrate. Cheap room...no show. Or better yet, cheaper room...more expensive show.

Every vacation we have ever taken I have always been cheap; I opt not to do things, choose a bad seat, don't buy souvenirs and so on. Everyone one of these trips ends up the same. I get home and kick myself and beat myself over the head with a club of regret. I should have done this, I will never find another one of *those* again, that would have fun. I have told myself that I wasn't going to do that this trip. Yet as I search for a new show I find these old habits are hard to break. I kid myself that it all makes a difference with the quality of the trip, when I know in reality the trip itself and spending time together is the real gift. Ainsley will really just think about our time together, not the missed Blue Man Group or the partially obstructed view seats (that should read cheaper seats) for "O". What will remain is the games we make up in the car, the spur of the moment stops for a sandwich and a small hike. All of which, ironically, cost very little.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The picture becomes clearer

We are getting ever so close to finalizing the details of the trip. I think we have decided on see the Blue Man Group while we travel through Vegas on the way to the Grand Canyon. We watched a view videos on the web and it looks like good stuff.

We are hoping that a lot of the attractions we are planning for are both open and less occupied since we are going after the major holiday. Time will tell.

Of course the rising gas prices are having us consider renting a private jet and just flying from one city to another - it would be cheaper.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Its all about the atlas

A new road atlas arrived in the mail today. Up until now we have been dealing with a extremely small map of the U.S. in our Washington road atlas. Now the real planning begins.

I am starting to look forward to this trip. We are still trying to decide if we are going to attempt some Geocaching while on the trip. I am starting to warm to the idea since I will get to buy a new electronic toy. What guy turns down this opportunity? I mean really, being offered the chance to buy a gadget - I think that this is a first.

Anyone with ideas on where we should go, please post a comment and let us know.

Monday, July 25, 2005

What lies ahead

Hey everyone. I am setting up this blog in preparation for our big roadtrip. We are starting to get dialed in on where we are going. As it turns out, we won't be able to go all of the places we were planning. Specifically we'll be missing Mount Rushmore on this trip. It turns out that there is just too much great stuff to see in California.

Anyways, we plan on posting our roadtrip adventures right here. Pictures of our fun and games as well as some of the sights. So check back often and enjoy the trip with us.