2014 - Year in Review (Page 5)

2014 – Fall Southwest USA road trip

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A road trip on the original Route 66

In fall-2014, we travelled KC-Dodge City-Santa Fe-Phoenix-Moab Utah-Denver-KC, driving 3,000 miles.

For the trip, two-thirds of the miles we traveled were off interstate highways (e.g., US Route 66). So, we saw much more of SW USA from local highways and in small towns. We ate in small town restaurants and stayed in small town B&B’s.

We declared the trip would be technology-lite, as we used old-fashioned maps from AAA to navigate. In the cities, we used our technology for turn-by-turn navigation, then, quickly turned it off, forcing ourselves to drive without auto pilot.

Along Route 66 to Santa Fe

In Santa Fe we visited the Georgia O’Keeffe museum, walked the city, shopped, and observed people. Visitors come from a variety of locations and lifestyles, then, mix with locals. The city hosts the commercial side of southwestern culture. So, much like Aspen Colorado, you mingle with affluence, with bikers, with successful locals and with down-on-their-luck locals.

We visited the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and Loretto Chapel, both seeped in local history, dating to the 1870’s. The stairway photo shown in the photo (Loretto Chapel) has interesting folklore, about being built by St. Joseph over 100 years ago. Also, the carpenter built that stairway without using nails, thus, an engineering feat.

We walked Canyon Road, browsing the fine art galleries. It’s like visiting other artsy cities where we found many galleries, all with a specialty. The galleries each greet you personally and gladly talk about the art they enjoy presenting to the public, for sale. So, there’s subtle sales promotion mixed with the education you get when you listen to their story about their preferred artists or art medium.

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Cave Creek, AZ

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Desert Mountain golf, on the Chiricahua course. We had a great round of golf with beautiful mountain-to-Phoenix views all afternoon.

We played in record time, for the desert environment the course provided.
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Gary: We stayed in Cave Creek, AZ, attended Brandon Cusick's wedding, played golf and spent time with friends from KC.

I rose before sunrise to photograph the desert at dawn. A new day’s dawn in the desert triggers new beginnings thoughts, re-setting your attitude for the day.

We played golf at Desert Mountain and attended Megan Barnes and Brandon Cusick’s wedding. Gary and Doug coached Brandon and Ryan Gamso’s basketball team years ago. We hung out with parents of the bride and groom, plus their friends. We sang and danced with the wedding party well into the night. We witnessed a Chinese Tea Ceremony traditionally performed at Chinese weddings; it honored the elders.

With KC friends, ate SW food and drank tequila at cowboy bars (with a few bikers); we had brunch at Casa de Cusick, Chiricahua, Desert Mountain, AZ.

Linda: Destination weddings work out fine if you have time to enjoy travel and touring around the main event. We did. We traveled Southwest through Dodge City, KS (home of Gunsmoke) where we stayed at a bed and breakfast and listened to hours of local history from a self proclaimed historian who personally knew James Arness, one of the finest men of his acquaintance.

We arrived in Santa Fe late afternoon and enjoyed a walk through the main square and happy hour enjoying the square from a second floor balcony. We walked the town the next day visiting art galleries galore. I did love two pieces both out of our price range for art in our house. We did get some ideas and have since commissioned a piece of art from an acquaintance I’ve known for years. We just selected a frame for the piece and will hang it soon.

Heading southwest to Phoenix, we sited the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in full flower. Turning west, we stopped in Gallup, NM for brunch. You may have heard of Gallup, NM if you know the song “Route 66” which is what we were driving when we wanted lunch and used google to find a native place to stop. We were the only caucasians in the place which is just what we were looking for. The food was good, the service friendly. As we left, there was a line to get in so we arrived at just the right time.

Brandon Cusick married his bride October 11 during a beautiful outdoor ceremony in Desert Mountain which boasts of six golf courses and many fine homes; two club houses hosted the ceremony and reception. The Cusicks hosted several open houses at their home. We attended the one on Sunday following the wedding. Then we played golf on the highest level golf course in the complex Sunday afternoon where I shot a respectable 96 on a tough course I played for the first time.

Grand Canyon, Arches NP, Canyonland NP

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Gary: We decided to make a 5 hour side-trip to see the Grand Canyon from the south rim during our drive to Moab, Utah. In the photo with Linda (left), over her shoulder you see 5 people who hiked past the guard rails. They’re taking a break on a ledge with 300 to 500 feet vertical drop into the canyon. Most tourists remain behind the extensive guard rails to prevent young kids or careless adults from falling. Here you see a rare sighting of the risk prone.

We might return to the south rim to hike down into the canyon. It will require more preparation to do so. We also might return to the Moab area for a deeper dive into the federal parks, using a guide for full-day excursions. You can get day-permits (with a guide) onto the Bureau of Land Management (
BLM) lands for day-long rides and photography.

Linda: The Grand Canyon was a spontaneous decision as we realized we were within an hour of the canyon on our trip north to Moab. The first time I saw the Grand Canyon 40 years ago, I wasn’t that impressed. This time, I was. I guess that’s the effect of age and wisdom on my mind.

Arches National Park

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Arches National Park

We arrived in Moab after dark and had trouble finding our hotel which was right on main street that we drove past twice. Across the street, the Moab Brewery met our eating and drinking needs that night. Later in our trip, we watched the third game of the MLS American League Championship to our ever lasting delight. We wore our KC Royals attire whenever the Royals played and got many comments of support while traveling Utah.

We visited Arches National Park and had an exciting day climbing a ‘difficult’ four mile path to the double arches. At points in the hike, I had much trepidation about my safety in the rocky, hilly terrain. It felt like such a fine accomplishment to have scaled the rocks to arrive at our destination. For once, we were prepared with a picnic lunch that refreshed us for the descent. Other trails of about three miles in length came next, but nothing compared to the first ‘difficult’ trail.

Gary: I enjoyed Arches NP the most. Linda agreed to be more tolerant of my photography in the park. And, she agreed to stay in the park past sunset, when the light is best.

We walked a total of 6 miles, with a 4-mile morning walk to the Double-O Arch. In the fall, the desert enters its wet and growing season. The desert southwest colors and the blue skies showcased the vastness.

The photo at top of this page was made with Fin Canyon in the background, from the Devil’s Garden Trailhead. Take a camera with a very wide lens.
Helpful hint: don’t try to take a selfie when you’re standing 500 feet above the canyon bottom. Find a buddy.

We’ll return to this park whenever we pass through this area. In future visits we’ll look at going off-road with a guide. We’ve found a few good choices for places to stay (along the Colorado River on US Hy 128) and guides who drive you deep into the parks.
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Gary: We hiked to lunch at Double O Arch, at the far north end of the park.

The hike will take about 3 hours round trip, with vertical rise around 600 feet. You can make the hike in tennis shoes, but only when there’s no rain or ice on the rock trail.

The trail has a few spots requiring good balance on rock trails.

Linda doesn’t have much experience hiking on rock mountains, like
Arches NP. But, she has lots of balance, from her dance and gymnastics exercises.

On left, she stands very still as a guy and his wife pass on a dangerously narrow rock trail and 100 foot vertical drop. Linda was climbing this mountain for her first time and the rock paths were steep and narrow.

She conquered a fear of heights to climb the trail by standing very still when someone passed her. Otherwise, she kept her eyes fixed on each step along the way, pausing from time-to-time to get her bearings and take in the spectacular view of the canyon lands below us.

When we returned from
Double O Arch, she climbed the rock trail as a sure-footed ballet dancer. As we moved down the mountain, we were surprised at how much confidence we had. Linda felt so comfortable that she used her balance beam pose (2nd photo) to pose with confidence.

So, ascending the climb, Linda had apprehension with something she hadn’t done before. Descending, she was cautious, but moved with so much more confidence.
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Canyon Lands National Park

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Canyon Lands National Park

We drove from Moab to Canyonlands north entrance into the park’ s Island in the Sky district. Once inside the park, we spent 2 to 3 hours driving all the paved roads in the park. We stopped frequently, as the overlooks into the valley below were short walks from the car. With more time, this park has more hiking trails of 1 to 2 miles long. You could easily spend a day pursuing solitude on the long hikes.

The must-see,
Mesa Arch (below) makes the trip to the park worth the trouble. We ate lunch watching Mesa Arch from a distance as people crawled all over the arch, made quick photos, then moved on. After lunch, I waited till no one cluttered our vision through the arch into the valley below.

Plus, we enjoyed swapping camera’s with total strangers, so we could photograph one another in front of the arch.

We may have seen 30% of the total park. Next stop for me, in 2015 will be a camping expedition into Canyon Lands south district, called the

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