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Monday, November 21, 2011

Those Turkeys in Washington Have Cooked our Goose!

It's Thanksgiving time and that means turkeys roasting in ovens across the country. But what about those turkeys in Washington D.C.? Americans are getting our gooses cooked by a bunch of impudent, self-preening, Washington politico buffoons, who wobble around the halls of Congress like bumbling, old gobblers stumbling through a barn yard full of political partisan turkey poop. They are so entrenched in their own mud-slinging, political animosities,  stagnating indecisiveness and self-aggrandizing that they couldn't run a lemonade stand much less an entire country.

Is anybody surprised by the failure of the so-called Super Committee? It's more like a stupid committee. Did anyone ever, even for a minute, think these paid elected representatives could muster enough courage, intellectual savvy, cooperation and good old fashioned give and take to reach some kind of debt reduction agreement. My dog could have figured out something! And I don't even own a dog. But if I did, I'm pretty sure he'd find some bones.

And who set up this lame-brain committee in the first place? President Barach Obama. Mr. President, I humbly submit that any average American outside of Washington could have told you that when you hole up a bunch of squabbling politicians in a room, they'll come up with nothing but hot air and windbag excuses. They had no leader. You did not take charge, sir. The super stupid committee was nothing more than a pass-the-buck trick to deflect criticism off of you, our president, and smear it all over a bunch of hapless bipartisan dupes. And your scheme may very well work. I held great hopes for you, Mr. Obama. We all did. Yet frankly sir, based on your unremarkable, passive leadership and inability to solve our current problems, I have absolutely no confidence in you whatsoever. The super committee is yet one more example of you not taking command of our crisis situation.

Mr. President, I respectfully beseech you...for the goodness of America...lose your "blame them" baggage. Drop your "victim" attitude. Next time you want to blame Bush. STOP. Don't do it. That's old. Boring. Unproductive. Rise to the occasion. LEAD with bold actions. Be a statesman. INSPIRE! DO SOMETHING! You talk about compromise but you constantly accuse and belittle not only your political opponents but the American people. I for one, am sick of your churlish blaming of others. We've got a problem. FIX IT. Think outside the box. Brainstorm some solutions yourself. Stop piddling around. Ask Michelle. Honestly, Mr. President, I am so disappointed by your lack of substantive ideas. As for your opponents being obstinant...indeed they are. But it's up to YOU to bring them around. Practice friendly persuasion. Show statesmanship. Play golf with them. Invite them for  sleep overs at the W.H.  Play B ball...and let them win. Play nice.

Ask yourself: what would Bill Clinton do? What would Ronald Reagan do? What would Harry Truman do? Apparently the old school, "slap em on the back, smile, pretend you like em, good ole boy" style of getting things done actually works in Washington. It's worked since the time of our founding fathers. You tried to change things. How's that working? Stalemates and deepening failures. You gotta get flying, sir. Be our national hero. Not our demise.

YOU must do the leading, sir. You must preside. Seek advice from successful, smart, real-world business people not politicians or academics. Redeem yourself, sir. You still have a golden opportunity to earn reelection. Solve the financial crisis of America with innovative ideas. We need positive action and responsible leadership. Turn this country around for the better. Lead Americans back on the path to prosperity again. And perhaps, sir, you will deserve my vote and my respect.

I am just a humble, ordinary, cash poor, unhappy but patriotic American who is very, very worried about the condition of our beloved country. As an independent voter, I've been struggling which way to cast my ballot next November. The problem is: There is no person at this point in either party who seems the least bit capable of resolving the problems our country faces. Those inept folks on Capitol Hill in both parties, who are supposed to be working for us, have proven themselves to be an abject, spineless bunch of bungling, gutless, self-serving, irresponsible, incompetent lunkheads. This bothers me. Does it bother you? To many Americans it seems the only decisions these screwballs can come up with is which restaurant to dine at...on the taxpayers tab, no doubt. I'm guessing there may be a few other citizens in this country who feel the same way I do.

So here's what I'd do to all those super jerks who could not figure out a debt solution. FIRE THEM ALL!  They failed. Pack your bags folks and get the hell out of D.C. You wasted all our time and lord knows how many millions of dollars you squandered sitting on your butts for months, munching donuts and sandwiches, texting, playing Bejeweled Blitz, googling stupid stuff and eventually coming up with zilch, zippo, nothing. You should be ashamed of yourselves. But of course, you won't be. You are shameless with your unabashed hubris and lime-light microphone grabbing. As for all the other political offices...including the Prez....I say change them all to volunteer jobs. No salaries. No lobbyists. And make them pay for their own health insurance. They'll still have some power and prestige but no perks. Maybe a decent pension when they retire. That way, all the money-grubbing, political leaches may drop out. And we might just get some honest, hard-working, responsible, competent folks to run our government who could actually get along and balance the budget. That my friends, would eventually give Americans something to truly celebrate on Thanksgiving Day. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Joys of a Sunday Drive

I've always enjoyed taking the road less traveled. And a Sunday drive in the country is perfect for discovering rural surprises along uncrowded country byways. Yesterday was a beautiful, end-of-summer September Sunday with a touch of cool crispness in the air, azure blue skies and a friendly, warm sun that beckoned us to take a ride on the back roads.

Hubz did the driving and we decided to head northeast and let the old country roads inspire our course. Our philiosophy: Embrace the unexpected. We both brought along our cameras because you never know when a photo opp will pop up.

No sooner had we veered off the main highway than we came across a wonderful fall festival/art show at a gorgeous park. The vast and grassy grounds teamed with people, luscious aromas of fried chicken, corn dogs and elephant ears and tons of original creations by many talented artisans. I never realized all the clever things you could do with old spoons and forks!

We spent some time mingling and kibbitzing, admiring the art and noshing. Then it was time to leave the crowds behind and continue our Sunday sojourne. Even though it's late September up here in Michigan, the blazing colors of autumn have not yet fired up. Most of the trees are still green. Nonetheless, we found lots of "sneak previews" of nature's annual color extravaganza.  After stopping along scenic rivers and farmlands and exploring some lonely dirt roads, we were rewarded with wondrous sights of historic covered bridges, picturesque, old barns and lovely woodland flowers making their fall debut. Here are some of our unexpected Sunday drive discoveries.

A jaunty farmer sits amidst his fruits of harvest.

  Specks of orange bell flowers bloom along a bubbly creek.

Cheerful goldenrod peek out from a creekside.

Splish splash goes a meandering stream.

Dappled shades of sunlight enliven a creek bed.

Joe Pie Weed and Golden Rod flank the Flat River.

A lone visitor admires the view.

A yellow butterfly lunches on wild daisies.

Wild purple astors wave in the wind along the river bank.

A century old, classic red barn stands sentry over the farmlands.

Built 2 years after the Civil War, White's Bridge over the Flat River, is still used by cars today.

At the end of a lonely dirt road, we came upon this spectacular covered bridge.

Canoes and kayaks glide the scenic Flat River.

A rugged yet beautifully weathered old barn graces the farm fields.

A scenic hillside view high above the Flat River.
Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Life is Like a Wet Burrito at the In-Between Bar

We drove by the restaurant...if you could even call it that. The football-size parking lot was nearly deserted. Grass sprouted up through all the cracks in the asphalt. The exterior was a muddy gray and screamed for a new paint job. There was no sign. Well...there was a board on the front with letters, but it was so dirty we could not make out the wording.

Even so, we knew this was the place. We'd been here before about six years ago and enjoyed a memorably delicious Mexican meal. Back then it was not actually a designated Mexican eatery. It had been owned by an Italian guy. But they served to-die-for enchiladas and burritos. Go figure. Today, it was high noon. We were in the neighborhood. And we were craving Mexican food. We decided to take a chance.

After entering the front door, we were blinded by the darkness. It was so dim inside, our eyes took a while to adjust. When we finally got our visual bearings, we saw that the place was practically empty. Only one table was occupied by four people. The inside was huge. It reeked of millions of stale cigarettes from years gone by, even though smoking was now outlawed on the premises. Dozens of tables and roomy but worn, vinyl-clad booths were vacant. There was a big, long mahogany bar, a bunch of pool tables and a stage. We saw no servers. At this point we considered leaving.

Suddenly from out of the darkness, a waitress appeared carrying a yummy looking pizza for the foursome at the table. She acknowledged us and suggested we could sit anywhere. We recalled that there used to be a charming outdoor garden seating area and we asked if it was still in use. The young woman cheerfully escorted us to the far end of the dingy dining room and opened a door to a lovely, alfresco patio with fresh, clean air, plenty of tables and tall sun umbrellas. It was a perfect weather, blue-sky, end-of-summer afternoon. Yet, nobody was outside. We had the garden to ourselves. By this time we were feeling adventurous so we plopped down at a table, opened a faded green umbrella to shade off the sun and decided to order.

I couldn't help but stare at our server. She was covered in tatoos. Hell Kat was emblazoned across her forearm. She had these weird, round, bright blue, ring-like things pushed through her ears. The effect was that they created a hole in her lower ear lobes big enough to shoot giant marbles through. Yet, she had a pleasant face and a perky smile and was very friendly.

The place offered a $5.00 lunch special. We each ordered a half burrito, no rice or sides and a light beer. We figured a small burrito would not be too filling but hopefully satisfy our crazy Mexican food cravings.

Hell Kat was back in a flash with icy cold beers, chips and salsa. The chips were homemade, large, flavorful and crispy and coated with an unusual but very tasty chili powder mixture. Yummo!  Since she had no other customers, Hell Kat, chatted with us for a bit and told us that the place had undergone several owners over the last few years and lots of name changes. At one time or another, it was called 36th Street Bar. Then Larry's. Then Frank's. Both Italian fellows who had a peculiar affinity for Mexican food. Now she said it's the In-Between Bar but they haven't changed the sign out front for years.

We asked how the place could possibly remain in business since there were virtually no lunch goers except us and the 4 folks inside. She said most of their business was in the evenings and on weekends with Kareoke, sixties rock bands, boomers and a hefty biker crowd. Ahhh, so that explains it.

In no time, Hell Kat returned with our half burritos. Half portion? An understatement to be sure! On an oversized dinner plate, sat an enormous, steaming hot wrapped tortilla...the size of a football...fully loaded with enough beef and cheese and sauce to feed a ravenous gang of bikers. A scrumptious red sauce smothered the burrito but left just enough room on the side for freshly cut lettuce strips and rosy, ripe tomatoes. We dived into our food. It was out of this world delicious. It even surpassed the memorable meal we had there six years ago. Amazing.

Between bites, we pondered how the place could afford to serve such large helpings and cram their burritos with such delectable meat/cheese fixings. Most likely the cook was a different one from previous years. But those wet burritos were still the best-tasting wet burritos we've ever had. It seemed a shame that the establishment was so run down. We pipe dreamed about how we could buy it, refurbish it, paint the outside, add lots of flowers and white table cloths and come up with a clever name. Then it was time to go. Hell Kat gave us take-home boxes. We loaded up much of the food we were too stuffed to finish, left her a hefty tip and fumbled our way back through the gloomy interior out to the car.

Later, it occurred to me just how much life is like a wet burrito at the In-Between Bar. Sometimes you have to forge through the darkness to get to the good stuff...because it's often in the most unexpected places. But always worth taking a chance. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wild West Adventure: Final Finish....Rocky Mountain Highs

 So here's how our Wild West Adventure stacks up so far:
  • We've driven nearly 3000 miles in a rental car, west from Denver.
  • We've traveled the length and breadth of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. 
  • We've toured 7 National Parks, 4 state parks and crossed umpteen white-knuckle, twisting, winding, sky high mountain ranges in ten days.
  • We've trudged through dozens of blistering 110 degree deserts that could melt the freckles off your face...and I think they did.
  • We've explored enough beautiful, yet sweltering canyons and gorges and buttes and mesas and plateaus to last a lifetime.
  • We've hiked up steep mountain trails; down treacherous, rocky canyons; across burning desert sand; along rushing rivers and through thick forests til our legs begged for mercy. 
And we've done it all at an altitude considerably higher than what we're used to. The elevation where we live is 640 feet above sea level. The places out West where we've visited range from at least 5000 feet up to 12,000 feet above sea level. Even the hot desert altitudes are 6000 to 8000 feet. I've read that altitude sickness sets in around 8000 feet and can make you miserably sick for several days at any heights above that. I talked to a lady who moved to the mile-high city of Denver (5280 ft.) from Michigan and she told me that for the first solid month she was in Denver, both she and her husband suffered serious altitude sickness...which causes bad headaches, fever, dizziness, nausea. Luckily for us and maybe it's because we planned ahead and drank so much water, we did not suffer altitude sickness. We did get out of breath easily though. Most of the time when we were hiking and climbing, the small backpacks we carried felt like a two ton buffalo.
    The truth is we're exhausted. So we decided it was time for a little rest and relaxation. We also wanted to escape the throbbing, baking heat we'd been experiencing. We did not have a plan on where to go next. I got out my trusty laptop, googled around a bit and found what appeared to be a pretty little ski village in Colorado just up the road from Vail. We figured a mountain town high up in the Rockies would be refreshingly cool and probably not too crowded in the summer.

    What we found upon driving into Beaver Creek Resort was....heaven on earth. The second we stopped the car at the hotel entrance, my door was whisked open by the hotel manager himself, who said: "Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Boomer. We've been expecting you." And with that he ushered us inside a magnificent hotel lobby and graciously upgraded us to the best room in the house. (I told him it was our anniversary...and it was...a few days earlier.)  He had the valet park our car and led us upstairs to a gorgeous room with stunning views of the mountains. "We're at your service every moment you're here," he said. "Whatever you want, just ask." 

    The hubs and I looked at each other and wondered if we'd inadvertently stumbled upon fantasy island. Or in this case Fantasy Mountain. Turns out this luxurious, four star, 350 room hotel had only a handful of rooms booked, as it was off season. We later learned that the entire staff was instructed by management to attend to our every need.

    We opened the French doors of our suite to a lovely balcony overlooking the village and the beautiful green ski slopes. We sucked in the glorious clean, cool mountain air. No bugs, no flies, no mosquitoes. Perfect weather. We didn't even need to turn on the A/C. The room was comfortably pleasant with the soft mountain breeze wafting through. We stepped out for a few minutes to check out the rest of the hotel. Only saw one other couple lounging by the pool. When we returned to the room, a plate of exquisite cheeses and a bottle of French champagne awaited us on the table, compliments of the hotel.

    There are few things so pleasurable in life as being pampered to the max at a fine hotel. This was all quite unexpected for us. For the next several days we soaked up the first class ambiance as much as we could. We hiked among the towering groves of aspen and pine. We strolled through the lovely, old world village of shops and restaurants, few people and no cars. We had the resort to ourselves! We explored a rushing creek bubbling up with fresh snow melt that cascaded all the way from the top of the mountain to the bottom. We saw scenic waterfalls up close and personal and meandered through mountain meadows bursting with wildflowers.

    We even climbed up a narrow, wooded path along side the grassy ski slopes to 9000 feet and lived to tell the tale, albeit gasping for breath. That's when we became concerned about bears. Afterall, this was definitely bear bears and grizzly. We were told that if you whistle or talk loudly or'll let the bears know you're around and they won't be startled. So we sang: Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear, prowlin and a growlin and a sniffin the air. He can find a fire before it starts to flame. That's why they call him Smokey. That's how he got his name......over and over and over....all the way up the dense, leafy forest to 9000 feet. And I guess it worked because we saw no bears. They probably decided not to bother with the likes of us loonie, off-tune interlopers.

    Even though we're not big alcohol drinkers, we made great friends with the hotel bartender, Teddie. He gave us free drinks on the lovely bar veranda overlooking the mountains. Teddie regaled us with stories about the area and all the celebs he's met over the years during the winter ski season. We were the only people in the bar. We left Teddie a very generous tip.

    Dinner at the hotel's award winning, elegant restaurant was a slight let down. Personally, I do not like frou-frou food. Pretentious, over-priced, minimal and usually garnished with scraggly, paper-thin weed-like veggies to make it look fancy-schmancy. I've had much tastier crusted walleye fish in Michigan. My two slices of potato, each the size of a thin dime, cold. Ah but all was not lost. Near the end of our paltry and outrageously expensive meal, the waiter told us that our pal, Teddie was offering us complimentary after-dinner drinks on the veranda. So we leisurely ended the evening watching the sun set behind the snow-capped mountains, sipping gigantic mugs of delicious hot coffee laced with Baileys Irish Cream, grand marnier, and fra angelico topped with a heaping scoop of fresh whipped cream. Divine!

    There were numerous activities we could have availed ourselves during our stay in Beaver Creek Resort. But we opted to soak up the world class scenery, do some hiking and mostly relax. Our Wild West Adventure was nearly over and we wanted to decompress and unwind before we flew back home.

    We started our little excursion hoping to discover the natural scenery of the American West. And we found all its startling, stunning, magnificent, breathtaking, pristine, unforgiving, wild simplicity. In our culture today that values bling over beauty, chaos over quiet, crudeness over civility...the American West offers a pure, unvarnished, sublime, mostly uncrowded, calming escape from the pandemonium of our disordered world. The scenery is world nothing else anywhere on the planet.

    We consider it a privilege that we were able to visit and physically explore such monumental natural and ancient landscapes that exist in the western United States. Although we've always appreciated nature, these experiences have changed both my husband and myself for the better. We understand that we are all connected to the natural world even if we don't live near it every day. It's the soundless tranquility of a scorching desert where you can hear the sun sizzle on the sand and rub your hands along a gigantic boulder that feels surprisingly cool to the touch. It's the tranquil calmness of the Grand Teton Mountains where the only sound you hear on a rocky, woodland path is the whisper of the wind.

    You hear the wind too on the edge of a high canyon rim looking down thousands of feet below you. The wind is different on the canyon top. Instead of whistles. You have to be there. Or you have to be on the banks of a Rocky Mountain stream. Looking way, way up you see snow. Then midway down, you actually see the snow melting and you watch as the water tumbles down the mountain and forms a magnificent waterfall. Right before your very eyes, you've witnessed the creation of a waterfall.

    Where ever you are, it's all about being in the moment. On the very edge of a giant, gorge in Canyonlands with a sheer and ultimately fatal drop-off, I spied a lone patch of four yellow flowers growing off the twisted, rocky ledge. My eye caught something fluttering among these few sparse blooms. It was a tiny hummingbird...flitting from flower to flower. I was only inches away with my camera and was able to capture the unusual scene. It's all about the unexpected, precious, gem-stone moments of nature.

    In closing this account of our Wild West Adventure, I invite all of you to take a trip to this spectacular area of the country. It's wild, untamed and even dangerous. But above will never forget the rare, raw, stark, unusual, unparalleled natural grandeur of the great American West.
    Rocky Mountain highs as seen from our hotel.

    View from our hotel room balcony. We hiked to top of green area...9000 ft.

    Some snow at highest elevations never melts in the Rockies.

    Magnificent views in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

    A lone hummingbird finds food high above the steep canyons.

    Solitary hummingbird in foreground on canyon rim with Colorado River far below.
    Sphere: Related Content

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Wild West Adventure...Day 10, Canyonlands


    The powerful Colorado River sculpts the Canyonlands.

    Far below, the muddy Colorado winds through the gorges.
    Ancient layers of sedimentary rock form the Canyonlands.
    Amidst the parched desert soil, a cactus flower blooms.
    Canyons...where "Thelma and Louise" flew skyward in their car.

    For millions of years the mighty Colorado River has been power-washing it's way through ancient mountains of rock, sculpting them into magnificent gorges and canyons and mesas, buttes and plateaus. It is mind-boggling to see the impact from the sheer force of the brawny Colorado. Millions of visitors have witnessed the majestic artistry of the Grand Canyon, carved out long ago by the herculean Colorado River. Yet this river has also etched out thousands of other world class canyons throughout the western United States...many of which are just as spectacular in their own way as the Grand Canyon yet remain unexplored by countless travelers.

    Canyonlands National Park, just outside of Moab, Utah, is another geologic wonder chiselled out by the Colorado River. There are three distinct sections of Canyonlands but one called "Island in the Sky" is most accessible to general car traffic. On the day we were there, it was not crowded. We drove across this wide, high plateau and were rewarded with expansive vistas of deep red rock canyons in all directions. In the far distance, we could see a large mountain range still snow-covered on top.

    Unlike Arches National Park where we thought we'd die of heat prostration, Canyonlands was slightly cooler and seemed to have an entirely different eco system. Flowers, meadows and prairie grass covered some of the landscape whereas at Arches we saw no flowers or greenery. At Canyonlands, you can get out of your car at numerous scenic overlooks and hike down to the rim of the canyons. Very scary, but the deep gorges and canyon views are stupendous. We had a picnic lunch not far from the rim edge, overlooking 100 miles of vast landscapes of red rocks, sheer cliffs and seemingly bottomless canyons. Several thousand feet below us at the very bottom, was the Colorado River...rushing swiftly through the gorges on its way to the Grand Canyon and beyond.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Wild West Adventure, Day 8-9; The Arches

    Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

    If there is one thing to know about Arches National Park in the summertime, it's this: The place is a hellish inferno. 110 degrees in the shade! Except there is NO shade. Nada. Zip. Zero. Not a smidgen. Forget that old adage about dry heat not being as uncomfortable as humid heat. The minute I stepped out of our air-conditioned car and into the searing, hot desert heat...I could feel my legs start to buckle. Thankfully my body didn't entirely cave to the ground and I was able to forge ahead. We brought tons of water with us, hats, sturdy hiking shoes, sun-block lotion and sunglasses. But all that didn't stop the intense heat from bearing down on us because Arches is smack in the middle of a vast, rugged, unforgiving, scalding desert.

    Although we felt like cookies baking in an oven, we found this inhospitable desert environment uniquely fascinating. Arches National Park is home to over 2000 natural stone arches, according to the brochure. Sounds like a hefty amount of arches. But we only saw about ten of them. That's because there are only a few arches out of 2000 located off the main paved park road. All the others are situated off the treacherous, sandy back roads...where a number of intrepid tourists have been stranded or died of thirst over the years.

    Yet to even access the arches off the main road was not easy. Many of them are not visible from the parking area. We were out in scorching heat. We had to climb up rocky hills, hike across slippery stones, maneuver through snake and scorpion infested brush and even squeeze through some gigantic, narrow get a good, up-close-and-personal view of these ancient stone formations. We were disappointed that there was not easier access to some of the other 1990 arches. Apparently the bulk of the arches are way, way, way off road and accessible only by lengthy foot paths or all terrain vehicles. Normally a 2-3 mile hike doesn't faze us. But in this blazing way. If we had been here in the fall or spring...the climate would have been much more pleasant.

    Standing in the middle of this desolate land, I gained a first-hand appreciation of what it must be like to be stranded in a desert. It's a terrifying concept. I thought about the early native inhabitants and brave pioneers who trekked across these barren lands years ago. It's amazing that many of them actually survived. For us...this was a crazy form of eco tourism. Who in their right mind would venture into a fiery furnace desert just to see a bunch of rocks? Millions of tourists every year! That's who. The unusual arches, towering spires, weird rock shapes, gigantic balancing boulders that look like they could fall any second...all create a remarkable, unworldly landscape in the middle of this foreboding, arid setting. Most extraordinary to see. But once is quite enough for me.
    "Windows" Arch
    A hat always makes a good prop.
    Sandstone rock arches look like they're smooching.
    We had to squeeze through this narrow passage to view some arches.

    "Skyline" Arch.
    The famous "Delicate" Arch.
    Red rock cliffs reflect in the waters of the Colorado River in Moab, Utah.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    Wild West Adventure Day 7, Bryce Canyon

    Bryce Canyon, Utah. 

    Hoodoo Alert! Hoodoo Alert! We've landed on Mars and we're surrounded by hoodoos. When we first came upon Bryce Canyon in southern Utah, it looked like something from outer space. For millions of years, the forces of nature have worn away ancient boulders and mountains and sculpted them into strange and stunning rock castles, spires, mazes and weird formations called "hoodoos".

    Viewing the hoodoos is like an out-of-body experience. The surreal looking, gigantic rock shapes resemble freaky creatures from a lost world. The term "hoodoo" is reportedly a Paiute Indian name loosely translated to mean: Red rocks standing like men in a giant bowl." And that's exactly what they look like. Geologists believe that Bryce Canyon began at the same time dinosaurs were becoming extinct. It is considered one of the world's greatest geologic masterpieces. While all of the national parks in Utah are amazing, if you can see only one, I'd recommend Bryce Canyon. It's phenomenal!

    Jagged hoodoo spires of rock form a small arched window.
    Ancient "hoodoo" soldiers all in a row.
    Bryce Canyon with snow-capped mountains in background.
    World famous hoodoos. Notice how they tower over the giant evergreens.
    Happy Hoodoos populate the canyon.
    Ancient rock ampitheatre.
    Tall, crazy hoodoo formations seen from above.
    Sphere: Related Content

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Wild West Adventure Day 6, Zion Canyon

    Day 6:  Zion National Park in Southwest Utah. Temperature: 109 degrees! I've never been in a blast furnace but that's what this desert heat felt like. Slammed us right in the face. We nearly drowned ourselves drinking water. Not an ounce of sweat on our skin. How hot was it? You could fry an egg on the hood of our car. You could bake a potato on the dashboard. You could dry two pair of large, thick, sopping wet, men's denim jeans...on the hotel balcony in half an hour. True! We did night. The dry air evaporates water like a super-charged jet vacuum. Whoosh! The air sucks up the moisture like a thirsty kid with a giant slurpee.

    One curious thing about the scorching took away our appetites. We seldom felt hungry. Hmmm....may we should move down here to live and get skinny. NOT! Another good thing about the desert is that once the sun goes down, the heat disappears and the air becomes pleasantly cool. Stayed in a lovely little town at the very bottom of the canyon floor called Springdale. An oasis of trees, plentiful flowers and greenery smack in the middle of the desert. Our hotel, the Driftwood Lodge was impeccable. From the name, we expected a mom and pop rustic, cowboy kitsch sort of place. But the Driftwood is very European, owned by a couple from Austria who originally came to the states to open a ski lodge in snow country. Instead they ended up operating a first rate hotel in the desert with an award winning restaurant on premises. Sounds crazy but it works.

    Zion National Park is just a few minutes from Springdale. The canyons and cliffs have been sculpted from raw rock by the Virgin River millions of years ago. To me, Zion Canyon is as impressive as the Grand Canyon only not as deep. It encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the U.S. Characterized by high plateaus, a maze of narrow deep sandstone canyons and striking rock towers and mesas. We were on the Zion Canyon floor looking up at the enormous, sheer cliffs and red canyon rim. The arrid heat and 100 plus temperatures were overpowering and zapped our energy. It didn't help that we were both lugging backpacks with a gallon of water in each. We did manage to hike down to the Virgin River, follow a few trails and watch some dare devils rapel down steep cliffs. And of course, we took pictures.

    The vivid colors of Zion Canyon are amazing.

    Towering cliffs are around every bend.

    Sunset casts a glow on a steep canyon wall.

    Locals call this the Checkerboard Mesa.

    Colossal cliffs rise from the mesa.

    Look! There's me up on that rugged canyon wall.  NOT!

    The red rocks are ravishing.
    Children cool off in the swirling Virgin River.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Wild West Adventure ...A Few Words about Utah

    If you think the Grand Canyon in Arizona haven't seen eye-popping grandeur until you visit the State of Utah. I truly think there's no other place like this on earth.

    Unfortunately they nicknamed this spectacular state the "Beehive State". So probably a lot of folks think it's got nothing but yellow-jackets buzzing around. You would think they could have come up with a more descriptive moniker than that. I suggest they re-christen Utah the "State of Amazement" or the "Stupendous state" or the "You won't believe your eyes state". Utah's rugged and geographically diverse natural beauty seriously wowed my husband and me on our journey throughout the Western United States.

    An especially stunning drive everyone should experience to witness first hand the majestic resplendence of our country, is the west-east route on Interstate 70 from Cedar City to Moab, Utah...location of Arches National Park. In a recent post, I touted the benefits of taking the backroads instead of the Interstate. This time however, the drive along Interstate 70 is absolutely not to be missed. It's sort of like viewing the Grand Canyon...for nearly 300 miles.

    Wild, breath-taking and uninhabited...I-70 is one of the most deserted stretches of interstates in the entire United States. So bring gallons of water, top off the fuel tank and don't drive it in the winter. But don't let that scare you. The road itself is well-paved with a speed limit of 80mph for long sections. We passed through sweeping valleys, red-rock mesas, promontories and escarpments that stretch for hundreds of miles. Vast rock formations, tall as mountains, boast phenomenal million year old stratas of painter's palette colors: fiery reds, yellows, bronzes, russets, blues and sepias...all varying with the light. On the day we drove this route, the sky was a dazzling ultramarine blue with wisps of fluffy clouds floating sublimely overhead as if Mother Nature was sky-writing: "Enjoy the ride, folks."

    Round every bend, at the top of every jaw-dropping landscape after another. Cliffs and canyons, rivers and mountains, twists and turns, heart-stopping heights and deep gorges. Need I say more? If you ever have the chance, visit amazing Utah and be sure to go for a spin on awesome I-70.

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