Week Three: Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ

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WOW…truly the most AMAZING geological formation I have ever seen! Antelope Canyon is in northern Arizona, not far from Page Arizona, home of Lake Powell. As it is Native land, small groups are brought in by Navajo guides in truckloads. While driving there in the open bed of a large pickup truck – the wind blowing in my face, I felt like a big dog with his tongue hanging out of the window, excited to be in the car.

Our guide Irene led us through the “slot canyon”, so named because it looks like a slotted opening in the rock, just wide enough for a powerful force of nature like water to enter and sculpt the soft sandstone to this incredible formation. The canyon is only about 1/4 mile long but winds around beautifully striated walls of stone and every upward gaze is a photographic moment.

If you are ever in northern Arizona, do NOT miss this.

Week Two: Bryce Canyon Nat’l Park, Utah

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Bryce Canyon is sort of tucked away, you must stop and get out and peer over the edge to see it – but WOW, when you do…
Behind the Bryce Canyon lodge are short hiking trails along the rim of the “Ampitheatre”, a vast circular congregation of stone columns called “hoo-doos”. Native legend says that Coyote wanted to punish the people for not doing what he wanted so he turned them all into stone. If you look hard enough and with enough imagination – indeed, the grouped columns do start to resemble clusters of people with heads and shoulders – some in pairs, some alone.

I arrived late afternoon when the sun was going down, it was a sunny 71 degree day, so I decided to pitch my tent and camp in the campground. However, not long after sundown the temperatures dropped fast and I huddled in my tent wrapped in my sleeping bag and piled with blankets. By the wee hours of the morning just before dawn (5 a.m.) the temperatures had plummeted to 28 degrees. Finally, I bravely put on my shoes and made a mad dash for my car! Off to the nearby Bryce Canyon lodge and to it’s cozy fireplace and comfy chairs to thaw out. What a delight! So much for camping in fall…

The up side is that by getting up REALLY early, I was wide awake and able to explore the park before the tourists got up. All the viewpoints were virtually empty, just me and my thoughts and maybe a stray Park Ranger or two. It was not until about 9 a.m. when I reached my final viewpoint that the tourists descended on the park. The early morning sunrise lit the tops of the rock formations nicely and I’m pleased with the photos I took. What do you think?

 

Week Two: Seque to southern Utah – Zion National Park

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First stop on this leg was Hurricane, Utah – my first venture into an AirBandB lodging listing. The B&B where I stayed was GREAT! I had a first floor room and first class service – cool room, great bed and sheets, a BIG welcome from my host Marla with wine & cheese and fun conversation, all at a very reasonable price. Isn’t this what travel is all about? Greetings, connections, laughs and crazy life stories… If you’re Zion park bound – go here! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4135571

It’s only a short drive to nearby Zion Nat’l Park – but stop at the River Rock Coffee house on the way and get a great coffee, a yummy spinach & tomato quiche and a VIEW! Their back patio overlooks a wonderful Utah-esque canyon. GSWA_053http://www.riverrockroasters.com/index.html

First major hike in the park is the Watchman Tower hike – a 2.7 mile hillside hike – which was amazing! Between the blooming wildflowers (oh, how I love Indian Paintbrush flowers!) to the endless vistas – WOW. Wear your sunscreen, though!

As I walk, I generally look about for cool stuff – and find a collection of heart-shaped stones on my path. I collected them in my pocket and left them on a large stone next to the trail entrance – I hope someone sees them and smiles. Pay it forward!

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Week One – Route 66 – between Victorville and Barstow, CA

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Right outside of Victorville, just 2 miles north on Route 66 is Emma Jean’s, home of the “Holland Burger” and “Brian Burger”. Since I endeavor to be a veggie, neither appealed – but the classic diner café beckoned, and I gave in and vowed to see what they had. Breakfast fare worked, a cheese and mushroom omelette, perfectly browned home fried potatoes – even homemade biscuits and gravy, all topped off with a chocolate milkshake complete with whipped cream and the extra in the metal mixing tin just for me! I filled up quickly, polishing off about half of the food and totally savored the milkshake and the home fries – two of my weaknesses! Typical American café meal – WAY TOO MUCH FOOD! Yep, I know it’s not the healthiest choice, but OH…it was tasty.

The café ambience was classic, as well.  A tourist family of five from Canada sat at the diner bar, snapping photos of everything from the waitress to the food. A few truckers and some disheveled locals graced the other stools and all were very well fed and happy. When first confronted with the grand menu, I asked the waitress “What’s good here?” to which she replied: “All the food’s good, but I can’t guarantee the quality of the service!” Hahaha…

I ordered my milkshake and her booming voice hollered out “SHAKE!” across the bar to the kitchen. Oh my…reminiscent of John Belushi and “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger!”

It was a fun meal - Emma Jean’s looks like a total dive but the food is plentiful and good. A classic 50s diner, so stop in and indulge. I did!

Week One – Apple Valley, CA – along Route 66

 

It's Trigger! Roy Roger's faithful sidekick - this is the statue from the now defunct Roy Rogers & Dale Evans museum, now gracing the hillside on the edge of the cemetery where they are buried. I was sorta surprised because Trigger is not a gelding - hmmmm...

It’s Trigger! Roy Roger’s faithful sidekick – this is the statue from the now defunct Roy Rogers & Dale Evans museum, now gracing the hillside on the edge of the cemetery where they are buried. I was sorta surprised because Trigger is not a gelding! Holy cojones!

 

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It’s not a far drive from Victorville to the cemetery and through subdivisions of typical desert homes – with zero greenery - their landscaping consisting of raked sand, maybe a cactus or two, a wagon or other western themed object. One home had a whimsical feel that only PeeWee Herman might enjoy: the front sand canvas of a lawn had two large rock tortoises, a tacky birdbath, a large bathtub painted like a spotted black & white cow, various wind chimes, a giant hummingbird and an 8′ tall verdigris replica of the Statue of Liberty, complete with a lit torch. Yikes!

On to the matter at hand, finding the graves of our famed Victorville residents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans – (AKA Leonard and Frances) I’m led there by the young caretaker at the cemetery – she might be all of 21 years old – lovely but a bit sad. She seems fascinated that I am traveling solo on a roadtrip.  She tells me she started working here after her beloved grandma died, just to be near her. Oh my. So, I asked her “Why would you want to work out here with all these dead and grieving people? It’s a lovely cemetery, but make sure you don’t let it get you down – go out and be grateful for your life!”  She shows me their graves and I note on Dale’s there is a book with an inscription – “Angels unawares”. I smile and ask her if she knows what that means…blank stare. “It’s from the bible, I explain –  meaning there may be angels living among us - in body but not really. Sometimes you will meet them in life for just a moment, for a message, for a bit of help or for a brief encounter, unaware that they are angels.” I’ve met a few in my life. She’s intrigued and will no doubt Google it when she’s back at her desk. While leaving, I remind her that her grandma would say the same thing I am saying – “Get out and enjoy your life!” Who knows, I tell her –  maybe I am an angel unaware in your life, here just now to bring you this message!

There is a really cool vintage hearse onsite, that’s been totally restored and is still used at the cemetery but only for war veterans, as a special offer of respect for their passing. The memorial plaques near the chapel are wonderful, too. Many are for Roy and Dale, but for others buried here too. It’s a fun visit – I’m glad I took the time. Happy Trails to you, till we meet again!

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