Yaya’s big adventure in Honolulu, Hawaii

This is the story of Yaya’s big adventure in Honolulu, Hawaii.

To set the stage for this story we have to rewind a few weeks back when Stacy commented on a Facebook post from a friend about a trip to Hawaii. Well, that started the snowball rolling and before I know it we had a full-blown travel itinerary. We had talked over the years about a vacation to Hawaii but it never seemed to be a realistic destination with work and the expense but after hearing that a friend was going I told her “see what you can find.” And she did, without hesitation – a week in Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu that fell right into a great time frame between commitments at work. The week started off in the Doubletree then we could move to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Something to do with the hotel points and such. I’ve learned over the years just to nod and agree when it comes to sales and deals but more on that later. The booking done, the anticipation begins, and the planning and then the packing.

Stacy: Okay, I have to interject here… My friend Kelly posted on Facebook that she was 1/3 of the way to Hawaii. I thought she was on the plane and just finished the first leg of the trip. I mentioned it to Glenn and he said, “I’ve wanted to take you there for a long time.” I said, “When?” He said, “Now”. Okay, that’s all I needed to hear!! Hawaii here we come!! I spent a few days looking over our airline points, hotel points, and even visited a great website to find what island should we go to based on our interest. I selected shopping for me and history for Glenn and found out that we should go to Oahu. Sounds good to me!!  If you want to go to Hawaii you need to check out this link, https://www.hawaii-guide.com/content/posts/which_hawaii_island_to_visit

Embarkation day, Wednesday, Aug 23rd

Vacation day finally arrives, none too soon for us. It had been a while

IMG_2539
First class flight to paradise on airline points!! I sure do love FREE!

since we had taken a trip to somewhere that wasn’t just back home. Nothing wrong with that but it’s nice to vacation in a new location to see and do new things. So, Stacy and I loaded up the car with a couple bags, we tried to travel lightly and headed out to Phoenix for the eight or so hours of airplane time to get to Hawaii. We departed Phoenix on time and had a brief stop in LAX to hop another plane then off we went on the long leg to the south pacific.

 

Even though we are three hours ahead in Tucson, we still landed at night in Honolulu. Our next adventure began right away; getting to the hotel. Stacy vetoed the idea of just grabbing a taxi because there was no way she was paying that much to go eight miles down the road. We checked around some of the shuttle services and settled on one that only saved us a few dollars but he was ready to go right away. We had an uneventful twenty-minute drive to the Doubletree and still had plenty of time to check in and find some dinner. The hotel lobby was set up island style absent the entire front wall, open to the night with no windows. We could feel the ocean breezes as they flowed through the hotel and it really started to feel like a vacation. The desk clerk was overly friendly and seemed excited to see us as she welcomed us into her hotel. Such a nice change from some of the hotels where we’ve stayed in during some of our other travels. She spoke in broken English and was a little hard to understand but I must admit her English was much better than my Japanese. Room secured and luggage dropped off, now we’re off to find food. Stacy’s not a big fan of burgers but Cheeseburger Waikiki was right next door to the hotel and it was late and we were very tired so she didn’t argue about it this time. We shared a Hawaiian style chicken sandwich with pineapple and barbecue sauce to start off the island vacation, couple sodas and back to the room. Since we have a few extra points at Hilton properties from all my travel at work, they kindly upgraded us to the penthouse suite. Even though it was only one night it was nice to have a little extra room to move around in before bed.

Vacation day two, Thursday, Aug 24th

We started the morning off with a quick snack at the hotel breakfast buffet then off for a hike to the Ala Moana Mall. (Where’d you think we’d be going!) Luckily for us it was only about a quarter mile from the hotel and a pretty easy walk because again, Stacy wasn’t paying for a cab. This mall was on our list of must-see stops. I’d been there on a previous trip and knew without a doubt Stacy would enjoy shopping here so we had to make this a priority. The mall is three and four stories tall and has just about any store you could imagine along with a bunch of restaurants. Like a lot of businesses on the island, it’s mostly open air. The center has no roof at all and we could still feel the sea breezes while walking the halls in the Hawaiian sun. I’m not a fan of shopping but this mall makes it enjoyable. We took a quick few laps around each level then spent some time in the lower area near the IMG_2563food court. Step outside the court and you enter the parking garage where surprisingly there are several stores that run between the food court right into the covered parking areas. The layout is unique and something I’ve never seen anywhere else. It almost feels like you’re walking along the street going between stores in town. We spent a couple hours at the mall, mostly to look at the scenery, watch the people and enjoy the weather before we headed back to the hotel to check out and move over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village where we’d spend the remainder of the week.

 

Stacy decided to forego the taxi, again (see the pattern here) and we walked back to the DoubleTree and then over to the Hilton. It was a quick walk, only a quarter mile back, grab the suitcases then another few blocks to the Hilton. That walk was a little slow since we were dragging suitcases down the sidewalk but we managed. Once we got there we made a quick lap through the resort to check out the four different towers open for us to choose from then headed to reception. We (Stacy) chose the ‘Diamond Head’ tower which offered us a larger room (a suite) but most importantly, a nice view of the beach and it seemed to suit someone’s personality.

Once we got into our room we dropped our bags and headed out on a more thorough exploration of the resort’s village area. We ate lunch at the Tropics Bar and Grill at the edge of the resort, right on the beach with a wonderful ocean view. They had a pretty fancy ‘Chef Matthew’ style menu but we also found some pork nachos with fruit salsa that we liked and actually came back a few times throughout the week to get them again. After lunch we wandered over to the shops in the center of the resort between the towers. Several shops and restaurants lined the inner streets and gave off a small town, local feel. We found souvenir stores, jewelry stores, expensive clothing stores, several restaurants and even a Harley Davidson store.

Vacation day three, Friday, Aug 25th

Off on a walkabout Waikiki. We headed toward downtown and the shopping malls. Along the way passed through Fort DeRussy Park and walked the winding paths under the shade trees. It would’ve been easy to set up a hammock and spend the day in the shade, with the ocean breeze blowing through the leaves. But, we didn’t stay long, had malls to see and bargains to hunt. We passed by the Hale Koa Army recreation center and hotel where Stacy stopped to reminisce about phone bills gone awry and then off to Trump Tower. We didn’t go inside but did stop for a couple pictures by the big sign for Mema.

Stacy: Glenn briefly mentioned my phone bill story, I will share a little more. When Glenn was stationed in Korea he took annual leave to vacation in Hawaii. Glenn called me when he arrived at his hotel, the Hale Koa, for a brief chat. Long story short, I thought we had free long-distance because my mom worked for AT&T. I never had a long distance charge on my private line so I said, let me call you back, it’s free! We talked all night long until the sun rose in Hawaii. A few weeks later a very unhappy mother picked me up from work. It took me quite some time to pay off that phone bill but it was worth the money.

The first mall we came across was the Royal Hawaiian Center, a two-story mall with lots of yuppie type stores. I didn’t recognize most of the brands but Stacy did! We hit a couple shops and then spent some time looking at jewelry on some of the kiosk carts in the center but nothing really caught our attention. We stopped for a few moments to watch some mall hula class. I was sure Stacy was about to break out in song and dance.

 

We wrapped up and crossed the street to the International Marketplace Mall. I thought the stores in the previous mall were yuppie, these were beyond yuppie; yuppie squared I suppose. The Hawaii theme really continued inside this mall with several huge trees in the middle and they even had a waterfall coming out of the ceiling. Stacy stopped by a Ferrari in the middle of the mall for a quick peek. I convinced her it wasn’t her color or I think we’d have been test driving it before the day was out.

Next on the agenda was lunch. We headed for Waikiki Beachwalk Shops and Duke’s restaurant for lunch. Duke’s is a casual beachside restaurant that leads right out into the sand. You eat lunch with a view of the surfers and sunbathers. We picked a table with a great view of the beach to continue the vacation ambiance, then headed to the buffet. We dined without coupons so it was the best we could do.

After lunch we headed back to the Fort DeRussy Army Museum and took a quick tour. The museum documents the fortifications made to the islands leading up to and during the war in the Pacific. One display is dedicated to the period following the attack on Pearl Harbor and describes how the islands were severely restricted under martial law and rationing of goods and services. Stopping by this museum was a great precursor to our upcoming tour of the Pearl Harbor memorial.

After we cleaned up at the hotel from our exploration we picked Benihana for dinner. Stacy and I both love Lampu in Mt. Dora so we expected this to be about the same. I mean they cook at the table just like Lampu, right? Nope, not even close. Aside from the chef hats and the flying utensils there wasn’t much in common at all. Stacy was quick to point out no ‘house special’ then she got caught up on up-charge for fried rice. That was it, she was bent and there was no coming back. We were sitting across from a group of ladies who had apparently hit the lottery. They were knocking back fifteen-dollar drinks and ordering the filet of cash. I was waiting for the stolen credit card or counterfeit cash to pop out to cover that bill. Those of us on a normal budget stuck to the cheap seats and kept it reasonable as we could. We still ended up with a bill easily over fifty dollars.

Vacation day four, Saturday, Aug 26

Off to breakfast at the local McDonald’s because that’s what you do on vacation when you don’t want to spend fifty dollars on toast at the hotel. We decided to take a morning walk and I don’t think either of us wanted the yuppie stuff at the hotel anyway. When we IMG_2682.jpggot to the restaurant both of us enjoyed reading the unique Hawaiian menu. I can’t say I’ve ever seen Spam, Eggs and Rice on a McD’s menu but the locals were digging it; several plates passed us while we stood in line. We laughed all the way to the register, then realized I didn’t have my wallet; luckily, we had my phone with the apple pay thing and wallah- it worked! McBLTs for us.

Time to head back to the beach to get a seat on our towel before the hotel emptied out and all the sand disappeared under tourists. We were slick and found some shade below a nice tall palm. That worked for about thirty minutes until the sun moved and so did our shade. Grab the towel and slide to the left. About thirty minutes and another slide to the left. All right, maybe not such a great plan. We headed down to the water for a splash in the ocean. We quickly learned the Pacific is a little colder than the Atlantic Ocean and there was quite the undertow making it difficult to stand in one place. I also noticed that the sand wasn’t what we were used to at Daytona. This was more the crushed seashells type and a little rough on the feet. All in all, nice beach but I think I’ll keep Daytona. Can’t beat the soft sugar sand that you can drive right onto.

 

We had lunch at the Tropic’s restaurant again, more nachos! Then it was time to get ready for the luau dinner. We met the bus and headed out to see more Hawaii. When we arrived a nice lady in a coconut bikini gave us flower necklaces and we took a quick welcome photo. I tried not to smile too much, didn’t want to get in trouble right away. Once we arrived inside and found our seats we had a few hours until it darkened enough to start the show. There were several activities to do while we waited. Stacy found palm frond folding and lei making to occupy the time. Once the show started it was pretty captivating. The ladies were impressive with the wiggling and all. The men were doing the native warrior thing with the flaming baton and spear tossing. All in all, it was pretty impressive. I took quite a few pictures of the wiggling hula girls. Somewhere in there we had the opportunity to run to the Hawaiian BBQ a couple times. It was alright but we’re spoiled with our Sonny’s BBQ from back home. On the way out we stopped for another quick photo with the coconut girls before jumping back on the bus.

Vacation day five, Sunday, Aug 27

I got to examine the coconuts so it’s only fair that Stacy gets to examine jewelry. Today we took the short bus, literally – held about eight people, to the Maui Divers Jewelry Design Center tour where they make the doughnuts.  I think they check your credit before you go up the elevator and into the ‘halls of misery’ as you follow the too happy to be there on a Sunday guide as he walks us down through what could best be described as jewelers under glass. Since it was Sunday there was only one actual artisan behind the thick glass but it was pretty interesting to see him working on some gold rings. Our tour guide took us down the hall and past several work areas that might be described as surgery rooms for gold and gems. They were all painted white and well-lit with lots of tongs and tools laid about. There were Tupperware card catalogs with clips and pins and hooks just waiting for someone to make them into something fancy. We paused by the pearl room, and by paused I mean asked a thousand questions. Stacy made sure that when she got to the buyin’ area, she was well educated on what to look for. Finally, we made it out of the real-life dungeons and dragons tunnels and burst out into the bright mid-day sunshine that was actually the showroom. There were more than enough sales ladies ready and willing to tell us what we just saw and why we needed a genuine Maui Divers souvenir (or three). Stacy looked up and down each aisle, then across, then back across, then in reverse, then we asked a ton of questions; then we went to lunch. Surprised as I was, we got nothing! She found better stuff at Costco I think but we had a great time looking and tormenting the guide.

Off to the mall for lunch, on foot since the bus was moving on ‘island time’ and we wanted to get there before dinner. Since it was just a few blocks we made the sacrifice and walked in the sun the entire five blocks. After surviving our exhaustive trek we chose to stop by Islands Fine Burgers on the top floor of the mall. We split a chicken dish with rice, pineapple and some teriyaki sauce that I think we tried to capture in the picture. This is a place I had the opportunity to stop by on a previous visit and wanted to take Stacy back to for the experience. It didn’t disappoint and the waiter provided quite the entertainment. He claimed to be a Hawaiian native despite the prominent Boston accent. Quite the character and definitely kept lunch entertaining.

We walked the mall a few more times and picked up some souvenirs for the kids and Stacy did a little shopping with her other boyfriend “Clarence.” We always look for Clarence when we go to the mall; if any of the family shopped with Stacy they’ve met Clearance.

IMG_0488Stacy: Okay everyone, I have to share. Here is a look at what “Clarance” helped me find. My favorite purchase in Hawaii is an Alfani white dress that I picked up for $15 (regular price $110). When I purchased the dress I had about 10-15 pounds to lose before I could wear it out but I couldn’t pass it up. When you try something on and it makes you feel happy you just have to get it!!

Dinner was a little more exciting for us this day. We had our hearts set on all you can eat crab legs at this restaurant we passed while dragging our suitcases from the first hotel. The sign prominently said all you can eat crab legs so we were all in on this one. Well, the reality of it was not so much on the eat part. We checked in with the comatose lady at the door and grabbed a table which already seemed to have a nice coating of grease or oil or something sticky. But, we’re troopers and can overlook a little dirt and such to get all you can eat crab legs – got our plates and off we went. To the empty bar. Yup, all out of crab legs, so there goes the eat part. They had some cold shrimp and other miscellaneous seafood looking stuff but no crab. We asked nicely, then whined and eventually bitched a bit. Someone yelled at someone else in the back who came out looked at the empty bin with no crab legs and then yelled at someone in back, mind you all in Korean or Japanese, I’m a little rusty on both. But to our dismay, still no crab legs at the all you can eat crab leg buffet! Decision time – not really; we both looked at each other and I think said simultaneously ‘let’s go.’  Off to restaurant number two, the village sandwich shop but nothing really jumped out at us there and the seats were covered in kids. Not the kind of quiet dinner we were looking for so off to restaurant number three the Tropic’s restaurant. Quick glance at the menu and nothing looked like it wanted me to eat it. I found a very expensive burger that I’d have had to ask them to take everything off in order to cover it with ketchup and mustard, just not that cultured I guess (ask my brother, no chocolate covered bear for me). So, if you’re keeping count, off to restaurant number four. This time we went for what we know Outback Steakhouse. Nothing like going all the way to Hawaii for some Aussie chips!  Finally some food we could sit down and enjoy. We know there was a long day tomorrow so off to the hotel for some needed sleep.

Vacation day six, Monday, Aug 28

Off for our early morning Island Tour. Started off with a thud because Stacy “don’t do” taxis and Stacy “don’t do” mornings. I think she dislikes mornings even more though but she was a trooper and we were down at the bus by 0600, or 6am for normal folks. We were off to the Pearl Harbor Memorial to start the day. The tour advertised tickets to the memorial and we found that it actually meant they drive us to the gate and we stand in line with all the other tours for the free tickets to get in. So I’m in a marvelous mood already, because I could have rented a car and done the same exact thing but we’re here and time to make the most of it, as we stand in line for the next thirty minutes. But hey we got lucky and got the tickets for the second round of entrants. Quickly we passed through the gate like a bunch of middle-aged kindergartners following our teacher. At least we didn’t have to hold the rope to stay together.

img_1298.jpgThe Navy manned to boats and ran an orderly transition from shore to the memorial above the Arizona. We disembarked the boat and entered the white-walled arch that sits at the last resting place of the Arizona. I was immediately taken by the small size of the harbor. I could imagine the ships stacked side by side two to a tender all tucked into this harbor. I guess its hindsight armchair quarterbacking to imagine all our eggs in such a IMG_1309small basket. I’m sure there were senior leadership reasons for bringing all the ships into port the way they did. We took some pictures, watched the oil float to the surface and read some of the names on the wall. I had not had the opportunity to visit this memorial on previous trips but I’m very glad we made it a point on this one. I’m doubly glad that I had someone like Stacy who could appreciate the moment and the history that accompanied such a serene solemn place.

I think she read and studied the markers more than I did. I really appreciated her company as we spent the rest of the tour discussing what we saw and the audio that we listened to as we went from marker to marker. One thing that Stacy and I did notice was that it appeared as though there were more foreigners at the memorial then Americans. I hope this was just an off day or a perception thing. It’s a sad state of affairs when someone from outside our shores appreciates our history more than our own people. I hope and pray that’s not the case.

Onto the rest of the story, we found our kindergarten teacher and boarded the bus for more adventures. Off we went to the Pineapple plantation and quite the plantation it was. We drove through miles of farmland and finally hit the tourist shop. There were gifts galore that all had a pineapple theme. IMG_1394Pineapple ice cream, pineapple gum, pineapple candy. In the back there was a nice lady that even educated us on the funny knives you see in the store for pineapples. Apparently there is a ‘right’ way to cut one open. I didn’t know that I’d been doing it wrong all these years. Although I can’t actually recall when the last time was I cut open a pineapple but for sake of this story, I now know the Hawaiian approved cutting technique. Stacy tried a slice of pineapple with some red powdered sugar and dripped red juice down her white shirt. Stacy washed off the juice and we wrapped up at the pineapple farm and drove up to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a quick lunch. A chance for a little more shopping and someone ended up buying a flowery sarong dress thing. We left the Center and our kindergarten teacher drove us along the North Shore where we stopped for photos. We didn’t get to explore much of the beach because we had more stops to make; and she was double parked. We pulled into the blow hole park where we got rained on a bit but had the opportunity to see waves crash into the rocks and blast out the ‘blow hole.’

We stopped by Hanauma Bay and learned that the big moon shaped bay used to actually the mouth of an ancient volcano that filled with water when the outer lip fell away and dropped into the ocean. Our kindergarten was confused about the time then said we were ahead of schedule so we got to drive through the Diamond Head Crater for a quick peek then down through the ‘Beverly Hills’ of Hawaii with the big million-dollar homes then back to our hotel. We were both exhausted by then and had to start packing for home so off to a familiar place; dinner at Tropics Restaurant for more pork nachos.

Stacy: Leave it to me to make a mess but I learned something… antibacterial gel on a paper towel takes out just about anything. The very noticeable red stain was gone in a matter of minutes. For my friends heading to Hawaii, the tour of the island was great but expensive, about $110 per person. If I were to do it again, I agree with Glenn, rent a car and get out your GPS then you can move along at your own pace. Don’t miss Pearl Harbor and make sure to do the audio tour. The stories told by the survivors really added to the whole experience. I could have stayed there much longer than the time allotted on the tour. If we had seen Hanauma Bay when we first arrived I would have spent an entire afternoon snorkeling with the fish around the coral reef.

Return travel day, Tuesday, Aug 29

Final day of vacation so we got up and out early. Since at least one of us was awake and wanted to see the ocean again we headed over to Ala Moana Park. Out on the end of the park there are piers stretching into the ocean and surf breaks all along the edge. We found a quiet area on the cement wall and sat for a while just watching the waves crash into the rocks. We could see the tiny crabs fearlessly darting among the rocks between waves. If there had been a hammock strung up there I could have spent the day just watching the surfers and listening to the waves.

Since someone got Stacy up so early, mostly against her will, I had to buy her breakfast. Off to McDonalds again! After feasting on spam and eggs (just kidding, I had a bacon biscuit and Stacy had a sausage biscuit but the spam was funnier), Stacy decided to visit the girls room. The fine folks at the McDonalds weren’t taking any chances with their restroom key, it was chained to a gallon milk jug. We laughed (mostly I laughed) at that as she disappeared out the door and around the corner with her milk jug. After breakfast we headed back to the room and packed for our return trip. The hotel gave us a place to check our bags and go sit by the pool. We had a time slot for a courtesy room later in the day to go change and clean up for the trip back home so we were all set to sit in the sun and hit the pool. And then the rain came, and it really came. The whole pool deck became a shallow pond. Luckily we found a gazebo to hide under until it let up. After the deluge stopped we jumped back out to some good chairs and resumed relaxing; for about thirty minutes before it came down again. We finally gave up and headed back into the village to check out the shops one last time. We also stopped by Tropic’s restaurant to use up our remaining resort credit by indulging in more nachos. After we exhausted ourselves in the stores we headed up to the courtesy suite and dressed for the trip. Stacy scheduled a bus to pick us up at the hotel so we didn’t have to use a taxi at all on the trip. We were down in the lobby for a little while and I started to get nervous because it was a bit late and there was heavy traffic out of the tourist area to get to the airport. The bus finally showed and we were off at a snail’s pace. We rode and stopped and drove and stopped and turned and stopped and inched and stopped and before we knew it we were right back at our hotel again. The bus driver actually drove around the block, at ‘island time’ speed and we were right back where we started. I couldn’t believe it but Stacy managed to calm everyone down a bit by playing the weather app on her phone. She hit the app and it loud and proud said; “Tonight you’re going to have Under Boob Sweat, just saying.” Everyone on the bus got deathly silent as Stacy giggled and snickered and fumbled trying in vain to silence the phone. She even tried to sit on it but no luck, everyone heard it. Then as if once wasn’t enough she tried it again as if to say,“yup, just in case you had any question about where it came from or what you heard I’m here to remove any doubt.” After that we had a pretty uneventful ride to the airport and we actually made it on time. Now ‘on time’ to me is about two hours early; ‘on time’ to Stacy is about fifteen minutes early with a mad dash to the gate. She wasn’t all that thrilled that we were there a little early but we agreed to disagree and found a Burger King for our last Hawaiian dinner. A little anticlimactic but we made our flight and didn’t break the bank getting there. Off for the long ride home to our adopted state of AZ.

Goodbye Hawaii! We had a great time!!

Advertisements

of bikes, beaches and bees

Life in Arizona involves being surrounded by people constantly involved in some sort of outdoor activity. People run, hike, skydive, ride motorcycles and ATVs; you name it and it’s probably being done around here somewhere. This story is about our adventure in bicycling; how being surrounded by miles and miles of perfect bicycle trails and thousands of spandex-clad, Lance Armstrong look-alike riders led to a brush with an angry bee.

We both own and have had some kind of bicycle for as long as I can recall. We have two mountain bikes sitting in the garage that we’ve ridden occasionally but generally we’ve been more of a mall walking family. On an almost daily basis, we see couples out riding together and really enjoying the Tucson sun. I’ll blame Stacy, but in reality, I think I started the conversation about giving it a real try. I started interweb searching bicycles and found that they’d changed a bunch since I first bought my mountain bike fifteen years ago. Carbon fiber things and disk deals, lots of lightweight stuff so you can go really fast. I managed to get Stacy involved and she took the lead like she often does. Before I knew it, we were popping into bike stores and sitting on tiny little seats trying to decide on reach and height and frame type and brakes and of course colors. Somewhere along the way Stacy fell in love with a black sparkly paint job on a racy bike that we found to be impossible to find locally. She did some searching and found the one in Phoenix at a small husband and wife shop. Since we were taking the kids to the airport to fly home from their visit anyway we had a ready-made excuse to stop by and look.

The shop was in a less than perfect area of town, with the pot shop and porn store to the left and right of their front door, we knew we were probably in a store where good deals could be had. S: Well, NO… as the sparkly bike was hard to find. That’s where I had the real dilemma, I really wanted to find a big sale, but couldn’t on this bike. I could have purchased last year’s model in Tucson for a lot less but it didn’t have disc brakes and it was black and red, not sparkle black and with pink letters. The struggle was real! Ok, now back to Glenn’s story… The owner was all bike, he had the greasy hands of a mechanic and the Ironman tattoo on his leg that just said I know of what I speak. He had the bike already pulled down and set into a fitting thing. Stacy climbed aboard and took it for a stationary test ride. After a few minutes and a few adjustments, she was moving right along, while standing still. The bike guy described how he tested everything and torqued each nut and bolt to spec, how he personally makes sure each bike rolls out of his shop ready to ride. We got detailed instructions on care and maintenance and he told us how Stacy picked a great bike and she’d have plenty of room to improve before outgrowing this machine. He pulled it out of the vice and carefully leaned it against the wall while he discussed shorts and gloves while his wife worked on the sale ticket. After a few pointers, he asked if there was anything else we thought we might need and my beautiful Yaya pipes up all loud and proud with “where are the kickstands?”!! (Now all our bike friends are cringing with just the thought.) Of course, I’m standing a little behind and have full visibility of both Stacy and the bike guy and get to really enjoy the show. Bike guy, being the professional rider and triathlon dude et-al, hears “kickstand” and I can only imagine him visualizing mounting a big gaudy piece of steel onto this super lightweight, finely tuned carbon fiber racing machine with the disk brakes and tubeless tires and all the wiz bang gadgets that go with. I see his head kind of start twitching like a bobblehead toy as I’m sure he’s second-guessing what he just heard. I grab the bike, and Stacy and we escape before bike guy’s head fully explodes. I tell him she’s just kidding, just to bring his blood pressure down a bit as the door is closing behind us. Stacy not having seen the episode is asking, “What? What?” as I usher her out the door to the car. On the drive home I tell Stacy the story and we got a good laugh and then she says, “But I do want a kickstand”. S: Okay, yes, I still want a kickstand and Glenn did find a portable one that uses a magnet to put on and take off. My fantastic husband ordered one and tried to install it but apparently my bike has an angled piece that goes through the wheel and so it won’t work on mine. It will work on his and he tried to make me feel better by telling me that my bike has a better part and that’s why it won’t work. Long story short, we’re still on the hunt for a kickstand. Yaya needs a kickstand!

Now onto my bike and how the search led to a weekend in San Diego for Stacy. I found a bike I liked and also found that the local stores around here didn’t have the size I needed, size short and fat. Stacy did some interwebbing and found one for a good deal all the way in California. It just happened to be right down the road from the Hotel Coronado AND we happened to have a coupon or points or something that would get us into the hotel for, Stacy’s favorite word, “FREE.” So off we went – on a six-hour drive across a giant beach with no water also known as the Sonoran Desert. Three hours to Yuma, Arizona where we stopped for breakfast because, Stacy had us on the road early, early; to have the best chance of using the hotel as long as possible. Two egg McMuffins from the drone behind the register and off we went again. Across the rolling waves in the ocean of sand and before we knew it, we were in the land of the socialist utopia. A couple wrong turns and a twelve-lane highway later and we were there. A vast warehouse with bikes and bike parts as far as you could see. These dudes rode bikes but in no way compared to Phoenix triathlon bike guy, they put air in the tires and bolted on some pedals for me since mine didn’t include starters, and off we went to the beach weekend. S: Two quick points here, Glenn bought his own pair of starter pedals- clip on one side and flat on the other. I just can’t wait to see him try out some fancy cyclin’ shoes and clips. He showed me a few “funny” clip mishaps on YouTube so I think I’m going to pass on that adventure.

Arriving at Hotel Coronado was an experience in itself. We crossed a giant bay bridge and landed on the other side where they had a toll booth that I guess was off for the day because no one was home. We drove some two-lane roads, through some tiny house neighborhoods that cost way too much and then past some newer looking condos until we pulled up to the big hotel. A great big sign told us we had arrived. In we drove past valet parking to the cheap seats that still cost about seventy dollars a day to park if you weren’t a hotel guest. Even then I think it was still about thirty-five a day to park. DSC_3062But I digress; we headed into the lobby, which can best be described as Grandiose. There was a giant chandelier hanging from the ceiling and there were formally attired attendants at the registration desk and concierge table. Bellmen shuffled around taking overpriced luggage to rooms on shiny carts. This is the epitome of formality and lavishness. We’re next and up to the desk we go to check into our free room. We had just overhead the couple in front of us negotiating an $1,800 dollar a night room but we’re staying on a “Stacy deal” – I’ll have one of those for free please! Registration lady politely takes our info and punches some keys while Stacy tells her “we’d like an upgrade” to our FREE room! Registration lady says, “Of course” and I didn’t know it at the time, but I’m sure she giggled inside a little as she put us in Rapunzel’s tower. S: Okay, you are only getting half of the story from Glenn. Yes, the people in front of us were paying that much per night for a regular type room, and Yes, I did request a complimentary upgrade. Check into hotel perks; when you get to a certain level you can get complimentary upgrades. If you have the hotel credit card you automatically get this benefit. I can tell you all about points and upgrades, just ask me 😊

After a brief wait for the room to be readied we received our keys and off we went on our search for the enchanted upgraded room. The hotel’s main building is in the shape of a square with rooms on the four sides and a giant open-air courtyard in the center.

Nl

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

20180722_092332
Marilyn Monroe
20180722_092314
President Roosevelt & his USSS Agents

The hotel itself is a historical exercise in grandeur. There are photos of past presidents, sports heroes, and celebrities who’ve visited the hotel, along with historical artifacts adorning the walls. The hallways have the feel of an old mansion as you walk along the creaking wooden floors. Even the elevator is a throwback in time with the permanent attendant and the manual doors. We stepped aboard and she asked for our floor then made small talk as we climbed the three floors to the top of the hotel. We rolled our little overnight bag down past a dozen or so doors looking for our suite. The numbers rose, we counted; we walked – and we missed it! Turn around and try again, nope still don’t see it. Past the housekeeper and wallah, there it is; like a hidden passageway in the middle of the wall, literally the middle of the wall. The door actually rose about a foot above the floor and as we opened it, realized that this was because it closed into the first step of the stairway to nowhere! Narrow, steep wooden stairs to an afterthought of a room. Yes, I admit it did have windows all around and some did have a view of the distant ocean, but several also had a view of the adjoining roof and it was really a distant ocean so no sound of waves crashing on the beach like we’ve come to expect from living in Florida, visiting Daytona or Cocoa Beach. After checking out the shoebox sized bathroom I was about done with our “upgrade!” I also pointed out that the stairs we’d climbed were a little close to the bed and I could envision my beautiful Yaya taking a midnight stroll to the bathroom and ending up at the bottom of the stairs crumbled up against the funky step-door. S: We walked in and the tv was on and there was this nice message “Welcome Mr. and Mrs. Dennis”. Nice touch! As much as I hate to admit, Glenn is right about the possible Yaya hazard but the views were incredible in all directions. The room was round and had windows all the way around. It was a bit different, but I loved it!

20180721_152734
Bay view from honeymoon suite
20180721_152705
Ocean view from honeymoon suite
20180721_152942
Round honeymoon suite with beautiful views from every window!

20180721_153005We discussed it and after pointing out the stair hazard, off we went with a disappointed Stacy to the reception desk to seek another upgrade, maybe a little more of a sidegrade and not quite this far up of an upgrade. Along the way we stopped to chat with the housekeeper who excitedly told us that this was the “honeymoon suite.” I should note that this confirms my suspicion that this was Rapunzel’s tower because there was no way to carry the bride across the threshold unless your plan was to drag her up the narrow stairs by her hair.

The front desk found us another room, not quite as unique as the tower but at least I didn’t have to worry about Stacy taking a tumble at two in the morning. We learned that the hotel was packed this weekend because it was Comic-Con in San Diego. I kept my eye out for costumes and did see a couple of wizards or trolls or something but much to my disappointment no Princess Leia. After dropping our stuff in the room, we headed out for food. We’d already checked the hotel dining options and found them a little pricier then we liked. The food didn’t sound that appealing either but certainly not sixty-dollar calamari. Pizza it is, a block or so away we found a little shop which smelled like we should eat there. We took a nice table in the shade outside with a great view of the oddities walking by on the street. We both ordered sub sandwiches which turned out to be a lot larger than we expected. Definitely could have shared one of those things. Most memorable from this lunch was our first experience with the paper straw disaster. At first there didn’t seem to be too much of a difference from the normal plastic we’re all used to, and then it happened; the sag. IMG_3831The straw became soda-logged, well mine did, Stacy’s just became water-logged. Either way they started to fall apart and we were onto straw number two. Later we learned that it’s against the law here in snuffleuppogus land for a restaurant to disperse the evil plastic straws. If we can save the world from just one spitball fight then by god; it’s for the children!

Back at the hotel we put on our walking shoes and headed out to the beach. As weird as this part of the country is, the beaches are absolutely gorgeous.

DSC_3220 (1)We were treated to some amazing sunsets and Star Wars playing on the big screen. Did I forget to mention that it’s Comic-Con! The hotel had a huge inflatable movie screen set up on the beach with chairs and couches and what looked like a giant inflatable bed lined up in front of the screen. Stacy checked and they were going for big bucks so we sat in a park bench just outside the pay per view section and watched the sunset.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


We sat for a few minutes of the movie then decided to wander along the beach to try for some sunset pictures. Stacy walked in the surf a little and we checked out some sand castles. All in all, it was a good night seeing a part of the country we don’t get to see that often.

The following day we had breakfast and walked on the beach some more before heading out on our six-hour trek back to Arizona. Back across the ocean of sand to our pitstop in Yuma. This time no McDonald’s drone, we went full native and found a Del Taco for some Mexican fast food. I’m not sure why but somehow we ended up with two separate orders. I had a taco and burrito which turned out to be a much better choice than a big mac. Stacy got a taco and some chips or something, then I noticed it; she got the Senior Citizen Discount! And she didn’t even ask for it. So now here is the conundrum she faced – whether to be angry that the clerk thought she was a senior citizen or to be glad she got a discount!!!  Oh my, I could see the gears turning in her mind on this one!  img_3834.jpg S: The second order was when I went back for dessert and on that order, I was awarded my senior discount. I really thought I looked pretty good earlier when we left the hotel.

A week or so after our beach adventure we’d done a few short rides around the neighborhood on the bikes. So far so good and we had even done a fifteen-mile Saturday ride to Panera for some bagels. We got up to about three rides a week in the mornings before I went to work and were doing pretty well. On our Wed morning ride, we hit about six miles at a pretty decent pace. I think we had increased a little each morning and I was feeling good with our progress. We even started to look at spandex diaper pants for the bike rides and checked out some of the clip-on shoes. Not quite sure we’re up to that yet but I’m sure when we are it’ll be another story. Anyway, as we were wrapping up the Wednesday morning ride we turned onto our road heading home. With only about three hundred yards left to our neighborhood, I was relaxed and listening to the wind whistle by as we coasted downhill to the entrance. Stacy was in the lead and I happened to glance up to check my distance – and then I saw it – Stacy kicking at passing cars. My first thought, someone drove too close and she was pissed, no; maybe a leg cramp she was trying to shake out. Visualize this, Stacy coasting along about fifteen miles an hour with her left leg straight out shaking like she’s doing the hokey pokey! I catch up just in time to hear her exclaim “bee, bee.” Well, not much I can do at this pace so I yell for her to stop and by this time the bee is gone but the stinger remains. I manage to brush it off and we do a limp and pedal the rest of the way home. Stacy got a few home health hacks mixed up and went with the “hair of the dog” first aid treatment and tried putting honey on the bee sting. Luckily no permanent damage was done by the bee or the honey and a few ice packs later she was good as new and ready to shop again.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I do see a lot of riding in our future but we’ll need to Stacy proof the adventures from here out, first aid kit and bee sting gel, and maybe knee and elbow pads (but no kickstands yet).

A Grand (Canyon) weekend! 

In celebration of 25 years of marriage, we decided to celebrate every month this year by creating new memories. In February we headed out on a road trip to the Grand Canyon for a long weekend. We’ve lived in Arizona for well over a year and had several discussions about places we wanted to see while we’re on this side of the country. We both knew we couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon, so as the holiday approached a long weekend seemed like a great chance to make the drive up north.

We drove north on Interstate 10, through Phoenix for about four hours and stopped for the night in Flagstaff. The plan was to get a good night’s sleep and head out early to drive the last couple hours to the Canyon Park. The desk clerk at the Doubletree Hotel happily informed us that we had a nice view of the park. We walked into the room and sure enough, we did have a view. The room was actually sunken into the ground and we looked out the window and found it was sitting at ground level and the view was of the construction site next door. Back to the front desk and after a little more haggling we had a two-room suite. That’s how Stacy rolls!

The next morning, we headed out for the Canyon Park. Along the way, we made a quick stop in Williams to check out the historic area but instead found that the welcome center was closed. Looked like a good place to find a little history of the town and the role it played in developing the area around the canyon. We then headed out for the drive to the hotel in Tusayan, a little town just outside the national park where Stacy had booked us at the Holiday Inn for a couple nights so we would have plenty of time to sightsee. (S: There are not many options for hotels near the canyon. Holiday Inn Select and Suites was about as good as it gets.) 

Along the way, we passed The Flintstones Bedrock City, a real-life mock-up of the town from the Flintstones cartoons. Stacy HAD to stop! So, we paid our five-dollar admission and in we wandered. We took pictures next to Fred and Barney and Wilma and Betty and the Dino the dog and the car and the houses, anything Stacy could stand next to or sit upon including the big lizard with the slide for a tail. (S: Yes, in case you are wondering, I did slide down the dinosaur’s tail.) 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once we finished with the cartoons we were back on the road. When we hit town, it was a quick stop at the hotel to check in, approve the room and then off we went to the park. Getting through the gate wasn’t bad but there was backed up traffic as we neared the parking area. Since we had planned ahead and mapped out the area we wanted to see we knew there was a side road that led to the scenic drive along Hermit Road on the South rim so as soon as we found the turn we were off and around the tourist traffic. We quickly found that much of the paved roads within the park itself were under construction and several did not correspond to the maps any longer. Although the roads were confusing we were still able to wind through the cones and blocked roads to find the scenic drive. We also learned that our visit happened to be on the last weekend that Hermit Road was open to personal vehicle traffic. After this weekend, only bus and guided tours would be allowed through until next winter. As we drove along the road we passed several pull outs where we could park and walk along the rim of the Canyon. Each pull-out revealed a different view of the Canyon with variations of patterns and colors. We took about a thousand pictures throughout the weekend trying to capture the grandeur and breadth of where we were. None of the photos do justice to the awesome size and impressive beauty of the Canyon as it blends into the skyline.

After several hours on Hermit Road, we headed back to the main parts of the park. Along the way, we saw cars stopping on the road and quickly realized they were all taking photos of an elk crossing the road. One elk turned into several and we jumped into the fray with camera blazing. The elk seemed to ignore the paparazzi and continued doing elk things. Stacy managed to jump out of the car for an elk “selfie.” I warned against getting too close to “the nature” but she doesn’t listen. (My next wife will!)  (S: Okay, picture this… I am snapping photos, getting a little closer for a good shot and Glenn is saying “hey crazy lady, get back in the car”.) 

We decided to wait for the sun to set and passed the time taking a few more pictures. (S: The second pictures shows just how freaked out I was after looking down into the canyon.) 

We headed back to town and found that most restaurants fill up quickly and close early. About all that was left for dinner was Pizza Hut. Not gourmet but it held us over for the night. Luckily, we made it in time and were the last order of the night. Several families showed up after and were turned away. Union rules I guess, can’t keep the doors open a minute after closing time.

The next day we drove back into the park and headed to the general parking area. We were in early enough that we beat most of the traffic and parked in a front row outside the visitor center. The temperature had dropped quite a bit today and Stacy and I were both in winter coats.

We checked out the aerial maps and watched a quick video then headed out to walk the two-mile trail along the South Rim. Parts of the path took us right along the edge of the Canyon with nothing between us and the bottom but thin air and some scraggly weeds. We overheard one of the Park Rangers telling another tourist how they lose a couple over the edge every year. I thought it was kind of refreshing to see some individual responsibility imparted on visitors by Mother Nature herself. Play stupid games and win stupid prizes like a one-way ticket to the bottom of the Canyon if you get too close to the edge.

DSC_1283

The walk was enjoyable when the tourist traffic lightened up. Most stayed near the area where their busses dropped them off; few seemed to make the walk from the visitor’s center to the El Tovar hotel, so the area between the attractions was relatively free from baby strollers and obnoxious teenagers. There were plenty of granola eating Birkenstock wearing tree huggers along the way to keep us entertained but all in all the walk was pretty peaceful. We had lunch in the old hotel then hopped the short bus back to the car in time to speed away to the lookout tower on the far East end of the park. We just missed closing time and couldn’t walk up the inside stairs but we did get several photos from the base and the lookout path along the outside. On the way back, we found a pull out to take some sunset photos before heading back to the hotel.

(More pictures soon)

This time we planned a little better and hit the Mexican restaurant in time for a couple burritos before calling it a night. Humorous note from dinner, Stacy asked about the difference between a couple dishes because the descriptions were a little lacking in the menu. The kind waitress in the most sincere answer I’ve ever heard regarding Mexican food told us that it really didn’t much matter what we called it, they’re all the same anyway! With that takeaway, I ordered something rolled up with some sauce over it. Bingo, dinner was great and without all the stress of trying to figure out what the difference is between an enchilada and a burrito!

Final day of the trip and time to head home. This time we decided to drive through Winslow Arizona; yes, just like the Eagles song. Can’t do Arizona without ‘standing on a corner.’ Although I can’t say there was much to see, it was nostalgic to hear the local gift shop pumping Eagles music into the street from speakers above the door. The place had some statues and a nice storyboard on the spot that claims to be the famous corner. I took a couple photos and we browsed the gift shop for some postcards. The less than enthused clerk took our money and away we went to the next historic stop.

(More pictures soon)

A friend of Stacy’s suggested checking out The La Posada Hotel, a restored old Route 66 hotel that sits adjacent to the railroad, and so this was our next stop on our journey. The hotel sits right on the railroad tracks and was actually a stop along the rail line to pick up passengers and mail from the area. This town is still a remote outpost in the desert and one can only imagine the isolation that was broken by the passing trains years ago before the interstate highways. The hotel is part active hotel and part museum. There are antique paintings and decorations adorning the walls and halls of the hotel. I say antique but for them I’m sure they may just be what’s been. We took the opportunity to eat in the hotel restaurant partly for the history and partly because we didn’t know when the next food would be available on the road. The food was decent but the novelty of eating in an establishment that was still in use after decades of age made it priceless. (S: The restaurant at La Posada is “The Turquoise Room”, and according to the newspaper articles and menu, is considered to be one of the best restaurants in the four corners region. The Don Juan quesadilla was amazing but my mouth is watering as I sit here thinking about the mesquite syrup butter glazed cornbread. If any of you make the trip to Winslow, AZ. You have to check out La Posada, the gardens, and The Turquoise Room. If you want to splurge, pick one of their unique placemats. I really, really wanted one but they were $80 each and I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that kind of money… and no sales or coupons!! For more pictures of this cool place or if you want some really cool placemats you can check out the website http://laposada.org/) 

We then settled the bill and headed out for the long drive home. In order to spice it up a bit we changed the route home. We drove down through Show Low, Globe and the White Mountains since we hadn’t seen that road before. Luckily for us, Mother Nature decided to add to our excitement by sprinkling us with some snowflakes along the way. So, imagine driving Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina for those of you who know it or maybe imagine some winding mountain road in the Himalayas then add in some blizzard-like snow that came out of nowhere. We even noticed some snowplows pulled to the side of the road to wait it out I presume. Stacy prayed enough during the storm to get enough credit for the next three Sunday’s church all the while keeping her eyes shut and squeezing fingerprint impressions permanently into the armrest and door pull. But even with all that last-minute excitement, we made it home safely and had some great stories to tell.

If anyone asks I think we both would recommend to anyone thinking about making the trip to the Grand Canyon to definitely make it a priority. It’s one of the greatest trips we’ve ever taken together and I think we both walked away with a different perspective of the vast world we live in.

The kids’ big adventure to Arizona!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You might not have heard about it on the news but Hurricane Bailey blew through Tucson this week. She even brought along Britt and Will for an eventful five-day whirlwind visit. After a long airline flight, they jumped right in and started the week off with a stop by Pepa’s office for a quick meet and greet then off to lunch at Street Taco. Bailey quickly warmed up to the local pigeons while we waited for our lunch. By the time Yaya arrived with our tacos, Bailey was already on a first name basis with ‘Alyssa’ and ‘Fred’ who were more than happy to hang around doing bird stuff and hoping for some scraps to fall from her side of the table. Britt, Will, Bailey, and Yaya wrapped up their downtown tour and headed to the house to check out the accommodations. After a quick tour of the house, Bailey hit the pool where she spent at least a couple hours each day for the duration of the visit. When she wasn’t in the water she was motoring around the house in fast forward, taking it all in and checking it all out. She was comfortably at home in her first afternoon at Pepa’s and Yaya’s.

On day two, we loaded up the car and drove up Mt. Lemmon to check out the view. The kids got to see the elevation start in the 2,000s as we slowly drove to the top where the elevation peaked at 9,100 feet above sea level. During the drive, we passed through clouds and saw amazing rock formations, twisty roads that ran right along the cliff’s edge and even checked out the point where cactus stop growing (because of the frost level) and the thick lush forest begins. From about 6,000 feet up the mountain looks more like a North Carolina scenic drive than an oasis in the desert. We even discovered some mountain run-off streams to drive through while we searched for a suitable location for our picnic lunch. As we unpacked the cooler we noticed that storms were moving in, which expedited our mealtime. Luckily, we were able to do our abbreviated picnic in time to avoid the rain that never really came. After lunch, we stopped in Summerhaven, the town on the top of the mountain where we hit the Cookie Cabin because we take everyone who comes to visit for the plate size cookie. It’s kind of famous around here and a must see for tourists. On the way back down we stopped at one of our favorite overlooks and climbed out on the rocks. The view above Tucson is not to be missed and we made the most of the time by taking about a thousand pictures, mostly of Bailey. Yaya had several nervous moments while Bailey ran around climbing everything in sight.

Day three was dedicated to our nature hike in the Catalina State Park. We started off the morning with a quick stop by Panera for a bagel, which they didn’t have – again. We then made our way to Kneaders bakery for that elusive bagel. Much to everyone disappointment, they don’t carry bagels. Quick huddle and we’re off to breakfast joint number three. This time success, no bagel but Beyond Bread had something for everyone including Bailey. She picked a cinnamon bun and a chocolate croissant and a little of everyone else’s breakfast. We ate quickly and headed out the to the park. Our destination for today’s excursion is a mile-long walk along the outskirts of an old native camp.

We saw plenty of cacti but intermixed in the greenery were several rock foundations that were obviously used as housing for a long-ago people. The heat today was less than the hottest days but was still sweltering and water was the snack of the day. It’s hard to imagine life without the niceties of air conditioning and refrigeration like we have today. These were hearty people to be able to live off the land in such a harsh environment. Bailey had little use for the signs along path explaining the area, she was hunting lizards and squirrels and everything that wiggled, hopped or flew. After everyone was thoroughly worn out and tanned, we headed back home for a visit to the pool and a little rest before the night adventure.

We broke camp at the house about five and headed out to the Tucson Desert Museum, actually an outdoor zoo where all sorts of Arizona wildlife can be seen in natural habitat. We had the opportunity to drive some more mountain roads, which Yaya just loves, along our way. We arrived at a very crowded parking lot with lots of folks rushing to get in to see the critters at night. Bailey had her flashlight and insisted on leading the way most of the tour. We got to visit with a black bear, some feisty beavers, a couple very active otters, a porcupine and a shy mountain lion who only wanted to show his tail.

Bailey found a nice lady with a friendly owl and sat to listen and learn then we made a quick stop by the live band that came to the museum to entertain some of the evening guests. Bailey sat through a couple instrumentals then a couple more and a couple more right up until they packed up the drums. She even walked up to say high and tell them how much she enjoyed the music. I think the fellas from the band were enjoying seeing how Bailey seemed entranced by the music, I think it’s the only time she sat still all week other than when she was asleep.

Day four began with a trip to Funtasticks for some go-cart riding and amusement park entertainment. Bailey jumped right into the carts and away she went. She even got to drive some of the mini-carts all by herself – again and again and again. I think we found her favorite. Then a little time in the flying pink dragon and the bounce house and the bumper boats. Everyone had a really good time in the little park and we wound it up by playing a round of mini-golf.

The evening’s entertainment was a visit to Bedroxx Bowling. Britt, Will, and Yaya had normal lanes with gutters and all but each time Bailey came up to bat the bumper rose up and gave her a little help. Everyone had a great time and Bailey even got the opportunity to play a few video games to wind out the night.

Day five began with a little range time for Britt and Will. We went to the local desert shooting park to empty some brass. They both did really well and managed to hit the targets pretty consistently. They even got to play a little battleship bullseye. I’m not sure who won but I think someone kept the target so I’m sure it will reappear somewhere down the road.

After the range, we loaded up the car and headed to Colossal Caves to take the underground tour. You can do the advanced tour and spend six hours crawling on your belly, free climbing rock walls and rappelling down sheer walls should you be so inclined but we chose the amateur path and spent about 30 minutes underground. We walked downstairs and looked at rocks, upstairs and looked at rocks, downstairs and looked at rocks – you get the picture – lots of rocks. Bailey had a blast with her flashlight and we had a lot of pauses and panicked moments as she darted between railings and peeked over the edge at straight drops into the bowels of the caverns. At one point, she asked the tour guide where the diamonds were, she definitely takes after her Yaya! Following the tour, Brittany picked up a pack of dirty rocks and let Bailey run them through the water sifter. Bailey examined each rock like she was looking for gold. When she finished she started looking for piles of dirt on the ground to try for more. Bailey left with a pile of rocks that she continued to add to throughout the last days. She probably left with ten pounds of rock from Arizona by the time she made the airport.

Update from Stacy: It has been almost two weeks since they returned to Florida. Glenn and I joked after they left that it is now so quiet here at the house. Some may think that Bailey is loud and did most of the talking but Britt is quite vociferous. She and Will also kept the chatter going in the car as they played their trivia games. I am still not sure who is smarter, who knows it all, or who thinks they know it all. The main thing is that they had a good time together whether it was hiking down to the waterfall, walking out onto big rocks overlooking the valley, riding go-carts, putting balls at mini-golf, playing in the pool or answering trivia questions in the car.  We really enjoyed their visit and hope they get a chance to visit again while we are living in Arizona.  Until then, Glenn and I will have to continue our own adventure on this side of the U.S.  More to come….

Catalina State Park on 1/8/2017

Glenn’s post from our day at Catalina State Park.

One of the things we put on our must do list while we’re living in Tucson is to get outdoors and experience the beautiful parks and hiking trails nearby. Today we loaded up the car, laced up the sneakers, grabbed some water bottles and headed out to Catalina State Park. We’ve driven by the sign several times over the last few months and each time mentioned how we had to make a stop to see what theimg_4560 park had to offer. It was only a short fifteen-minute drive to the entrance and another five or so to the first trail. Parking was easy and we were a little surprised how light the crowd was around the trails especially with the beautiful weather. We headed out to Romero Ruins trail to begin our first leg of the day’s odyssey. Stacy posed at the entrance to the trail with the sign and amazing mountain range in the background.

No matter where we look, there are amazing views surrounding this city. It’s like a giant IMAX theater that we get to live inside.  We headed up the trail along some rugged looking stairs that leveled off into a winding nature trail.

AloIMG_4579.JPGng the route we found placards that described the ruins of the village. We learned that some of the earliest residents of Arizona lived in these villages. They organized into groups and constructed pretty substantial structures and boundary walls. There’s speculation that the walls were possibly to keep out predators or maybe even to keep livestock corralled in the village. img_4583We walked around checking out the ruins and reading the placards kind of like walking through a natural museum. Toward the end of the hiking tour, we learned that there were flat courts where villagers played games with crude balls made from natural materials. There wasn’t much detail but they thought maybe it was not only for recreation but possibly to settle tribal disputes. The whole trail took maybe an hour or so at an easy pace, with several stops for reading and picture taking. Walking this trail even under the warm winter sun it was easy to imagine how difficult it was for the early inhabitants to survive in such a rough environment especially during the blazing hot summer months.

img_4592We found a large cactus and took a couple pictures for perspective. It’s easy to underestimate the size of these giant plants in comparison to the mountains in the background but standing beside one really puts things in perspective. Here you see Stacy doing her best Vannah White impression. We wrapped up the ruins trail and headed back down the stairs to the car. After a brief air conditioned rest we struck out again along the one mile “Nature Trail.” According to the map, it looked like a quick hike but the map was a little deceiving. The initial climb to the trail was probably a quarter mile up a pretty steep, loose gravel incline.
Stacy did really well making it up the first leg but I was a little concerned about how we were going to get back down once we finished. At the top we entered the actual one-mile trail and found this part pretty easy. There were several scenic stops with placards describing local wildlife and plant life and even the occasional park bench. img_4570We found several incredible mountain views and took another ton of pictures of skylines and scenic overlooks. Stacy was a good sport and didn’t complain too much about the heat and sun. It turned out to be a really gorgeous day to be outside and we enjoyed the sunshine. It’s a nice change to get outside and really take time to appreciate our surroundings. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the daily hustle and bustle of work and home responsibilities that you can miss out on the great adventures right around the corner. After we completed the one-mile loop it was time to descend the hill to get back to the car. It was a little treacherous with the loose gravel but we took our time and made it back to the car safely. It was a great afternoon and we’re both glad we started with a couple short trails first. Next outing we may attempt a little lengthier trail like the Romero Canyon or Mount Lemmon trail to see if we can find the waterfalls we were told are out there somewhere. img_4609

Stacy’s response 2/1: I don’t think that I am ready to take on any trails more difficult than the two Glenn mentioned. I am going to take mom and dad to the Ruins trail today. I know mom will run ahead like she does when we walk in the mall but at least on this trail we will not lose her (as long as she stays on the trail and doesn’t wander off into the desert).

Shootout at the OK Corral

Anyone coming to Tucson has to take a day trip to Tombstone, AZ.  Tombstone is a town in southern Arizona about 30 minutes north of Mexico and 90 minutes south of Tucson.  The town was founded by a prospector who found silver and once the word got out prospectors, cowboys, and many others moved to the town.  IMG_4341.JPG

Glenn and I have been so busy this past month looking for a home, working on all the paperwork, getting documents together, getting insurance and all the inspections and working that we have not had the time to enjoy this beautiful state. Now, with most of the “house stuff” behind us we were able to start having fun.  The weekend before last we ventured south to Tombstone to take a look around. The weather was a perfect in the 70’s in the morning with a gradual warm up to the mid 80’s in the afternoon.  When we arrived we noticed several people walking around town in period costumes. Even a few locals were seen with guns strapped to their hips.

As we were walking around a barker across the street announced the Shoot-out at the OK Corral show would begin in 5 minutes. We hurried across, paid $10 each for tickets, walked in at the last minute and ended up with one of the best seats on the front row. I heard of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday but did not know the story and never even watched the movies Tombstone or Wyatt Earp. The 30-minute show was a reenactment of the shootout between the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday against the cowboys. There were long running disagreements between the Earp brothers (the cops) and the cowboys that eventually led to the gunfight. Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton were cowboys killed in the fight.

After the show we took a few photos with the actors then walked around a boarding house that rented a room to Doc Holiday, another little single room house where ladies of the night entertained clients, and an outdoor area that has a silver mining area and old wagons.

 

For lunch we went to14466428_10208744369941479_1862800115_o the Crystal Palace Saloon that is known as the most famous saloon of the wild west. There is a beautiful bar and the servers are dressed in a costume that most men would appreciate. The walls have paintings of women in skimpy outfits and one lady was missing her outfit. This restaurant may not be suitable for the young ones. I think we arrived a little early as they were setting up for the live music but it did not begin until after we finished lunch. The food was average; Glenn and I shared an order of nachos, a bacon, lettuce & tomato sandwich and a sarsaparilla drink. I twisted Glenn’s arm a bit and got him to pose for a picture with our server before we left.

Later we continued to walk around the town and explore the shops. I enjoyed browsing through the silver and jewelry stores that featured work from the local artisans. There was a leather store where I am sure Glenn would have loved to part with a few bucks but it was closed. Maybe it will be open next time! We saved a few tours for the next time we come down when we have company. There is a famous theater, “The Bird Cage Theatre”, which was also a saloon and brothel.  I can’t elaborate on all the wicked things that went on in the theater because we are saving the tour for our next visit.  One other place we have to check out next time is a little inn, an old hotel and boarding house, that has the world’s largest rose bush. The “Lady Banksia” rose bush was planted in 1885 and is documented in the Guinness book of world records as the largest rose bush and it covers about 9,000 square feet. It blooms around Easter time so it should be a beautiful sight in the spring.

On the way home we drove past the Boothills Graveyard where many cowboys are buried in the graveyard including the ones killed during the shootout at the OK Corral. Some say the graveyard got the name because those buried there died and were buried with their boots on. I am not sure that it the real reason but it sounds good. It began sprinkling when we were about to walk out to the graveyard so we decided we would add it to the list of things to see when we return.

This past Saturday we found a copy of the Tombstone movie at the local bookstore.  Watching the movie helped pull everything together we learned about the town.  Good times!

Texas, Texas and more Texas. Hotels, Bush country, Windmills, Oil Rigs and Convenience store fun.

Days 5-7 (Tuesday-Thursday) Texas: Texas, Texas and more Texas. Hotels, Bush country, Windmills, Oil Rigs and Convenience store fun.

For those of you who live in Texas or have been through Texas you understand that this is a HUGE state! We spent 3 nights in Texas; one in Dallas, one in Midland and one in El Paso. I think I have enjoyed enough Mexican food and BBQ to last me at least a month.

I should have checked with my friend Angel a little sooner to ask what area to book our hotel in Dallas. I ended up picking out a hotel on the South East side of Dallas in Desoto and it is far different from the Dallas/Ft. Worth that I remember from a few years ago when I visited Angel.  Glenn did not want to stay at one of the hotels downtown because they have parking garages and he wanted to keep our car close so he could keep an eye on things. I thought I was doing the right thing by getting one close to the highway but realized when we heard all the road noise that maybe a hotel a few blocks away OR ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN might have been a better idea! One good thing, we could look out our window and see the car.  We always try to stay at the Hilton brand hotels to accumulate points towards future hotel stays. Tuesday night we stayed at Hampton Inn. Although we stayed at Hampton Inns a few times last week we are learning that each one offers different perks. The one in Waldorf had fruit and cookies out in the lobby but mom was too late to get the cookies because a lady scooped up the last few. The hotel in West Virginia had popcorn in the lobby.  I learned that if you stay Monday-Thursday they have a Managers reception with appetizers and drinks.  Tuesday night I really loved the asparagus and cream cheese wrapped in puffed pastry, maybe a little too much. After being up every two hours throughout the night I looked up the side effects of asparagus and learned that it helps flush the kidneys. Hmmm.  Glenn wonders why he did not sleep well Tuesday night- probably because I kept getting up out of bed!! Although the Hampton Inn is regarded as the Hilton’s budget friendly hotel I like the Neutrogena bath products over the Doubletree and Embassy Suites bath products (we stay at the Doubletree when we go to Delaware and stayed at Embassy in Kentucky).  At Hampton, you can’t leave without trying the Belgian Waffles for breakfast. Glenn ate cereal and yogurt at most of the Hampton Inns. Good for him; but he really missed out! Two of the Hamptons offered Nutella spread and assorted drizzle sauces and whipped cream for toppings. Who said I can’t cook? I can make a perfect waffle at the Hampton Inn! I made a waffle that would make Paula Deen proud then decorated it with caramel and white chocolate on one side and Nutella and peanut butter on the other side. It was scrumptious!!

You have to make sure that you take advantage of the gas stations and convenience stores when you are driving through Texas because it could be a while before you see another!  Glenn likes to eat beef jerky and I have mentioned on more than one occasion that the smell of beef jerky makes me nauseous. He kept joking around about getting beef jerky and at one of the stops there was a large beef jerky display front and center when we entered the store. I told the lady behind the counter that he was not allowed to buy any beef jerky.  She laughed- but it worked, no beef jerky! At another convenience store Glenn was right beside or behind me all throughout the store but when I got to the counter- no Glenn! I joked with the cashier and said that I should have her page him overhead. This is not one of those tiny convenience stores, it is the one the truck drivers frequent and it had a Subway and a chicken restaurant inside. Well she did it- paged “Glenn Dennis to the front of the store”. I loved it!! He came up and told the lady that he was getting me a coke but no coke for me now (sounding like the soup Nazi on Seinfeld, “no soup for you”).

As we approached Midland, Texas on Wednesday we noticed a very strong odor similar to burning rubber and Glenn said it was the oil.  Of course, that is what all those machines were doing out in the fields. That night we checked into the Doubletree and I have to say that it was an improvement from the area I chose for Tuesday night; however, I don’t think Glenn was happy that it was a hotel with valet parking. Oops, another booking mistake. I did not see where they mentioned the valet parking on the booking app. The Doubletree hotel we stay at in Delaware has parking right out in front of the lobby.  The valet parking was just not happening because we had our car full so Glenn found parking across the street where we could see the car from our room. The only drawback was that we had to move the car by 8 a.m. which made for an early check out of the hotel.  The Doubletree did not disappoint; the cookies they give out when you check in were warm and delicious and the omelet and fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast really hit the spot. I looked around during breakfast and realized that I was the only female customer in the restaurant. It was filled with older white men dressed in jeans, button up shirts and a few had cowboy hats.  I kind of like that look!! After breakfast we had to scoot out pretty quickly due to the parking restrictions on the road. I asked Glenn if we could stop by the George Bush childhood home on our way out of town.  It was only a few miles away so we drove by, stopped, looked around and took a few pictures but the home/museum did not open until 10 a.m. Bummer. If we had just valet parked the car we could have slept in a little, then hit the Bush house when it opened. The home was very small and I thought about how difficult it would be to squeeze all our things into that home let alone the number of people who were living there. It makes me realize that Glenn and I still need to purge a little more and simplify our lives. I was a little curious about what the back yard looked like so I peeked between the slats in the fence.  Looked like a normal backyard to me, nothing special. Glenn said “hey crazy lady, what are you doing?” Guess that was my clue that it was time to leave before the neighbors called the police. We went to fill up as we were leaving town and noticed the price of gas was about 20 cents higher per gallon. Glenn said “They have all this oil out here why are the gas prices so high?” After filling the tank, we did not make it far before Glenn noticed a sign for the Meteor Crater so we took the next exit to go check out the Meteor Crater and Museum in Odessa, Texas. After driving a few miles down the road we see a closed gate and the sign showing they do not open until 10 a.m. I see a trend here… we should have slept in, then we could have seen the Bush house and the Meteor Crater, right?  Maybe it is just a sign that we should keep moving and get on the road to El Paso, Texas.

I booked our Thursday night stay at the Embassy Suites in El Paso. Not too much to report in El Paso because we chose to stay in for the night and have dinner at the hotel.  Glenn noticed a lot of military folks were staying at the hotel and I noticed a man wearing a FLETC polo shirt. Glenn attended FLETC in Georgia for his first Secret Service training school. We woke extremely early the next morning because my phone rang before 6 a.m.  It is going to take me a little time to get used to this time change. Look at the bright side, on Friday morning we packed up and started heading to Tucson.  I will write a short post later about our drive past the border, through New Mexico then our arrival in Arizona. I miss all of my family and friends, and really missed having mom and dad on this leg of the trip but we will see you all very soon!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.