Ok, here's a hybrid photo/scrap album that I put together in only a day and a half. It contains 267 photos, all the funny stories, and memorabilia from our trip in March. We went to the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon. It was quite a trip from beginning to end.
The entire album is in a slide show to the left. I will just post the pages with the stories here. Keep in mind that many of the pages are in page protectors so there is some glare. I apologize for that but I can not photograph some of the pages outside the page protectors. Check out the slide show if you don't understand what I mean.
So, here's the beginning:
Journaling: We packed the truck so we could take off on Friday, March 12th. We didn’t get everything done until evening. Brandon warned me the truck wouldn’t shift or go over 50 mph. We loaded it up anyway then had to buy a tarp because it started raining. We put the tarp on and left the Wal-Mart parking lot. We had to stop four or five times to adjust the tarp. Obviously we are not pros at this! Sure enough, the truck is messed up. Two hours later and only 15 miles down the road we turned around and headed for home. Rental in the morning!
Journaling: Well, here’s the story of the Toot ‘n Totem. It was Saturday March 13th and we had been driving twelve or thirteen hours when we decided it was time for another pit stop. I used the trusty GPS to locate a gas station. I was looking for something I thought would be safe. You know- a Shell, Phillips 66 or even a BP. Well, that silly GPS came up with the Toot ‘n Totem. What the heck is that?! We were NOT going to the Toot ‘n Totem! I mean, it had to be some sleazy little hole in the wall, right? So, I chose one of those well-known gas stations and punched the button to add it to our trip. Easey, Peasey. Oh no! The GPS took us to the Toot ‘n Totem! Brandon was asleep in the back seat so we didn’t wake him. Allison and I both hit the restroom (no tootin’ for us, thank you very much!) and filled up the tank. Not five minutes later we noticed this awful smell in the vehicle. It was a nasty poo smell. Ok, we are just driving by a cow pasture. No problem, the smell will pass. Nope! It was still there ten minutes later. Okaaay, are we following a livestock truck? Nope. See any cows on the side of the road? Nope. All right, Allison did you step in poop back at the Toot ‘n Totem? Nope. Then I handed her my shoes to check them. She actually sniffed them to see if they stunk! Still no source for the nasty poo smell. Then, I suggested Allison check Brandon’s pulse. Maybe he isn’t alive and he messed his breeches! I was just joking but she really did crawl back and make sure he was breathing. By this time we are laughing hysterically and have resorted to “shirtkerchiefs.” We never did figure out where that awful smell was coming from. It lasted for over thirty minutes. Good thing it was dark because we were both riding along with our noses stuck in our shirts for the entire time. Somebody sure was a tootin’! That darn Toot ‘n Totem!
Allison reminded me that I forgot to mention that Sheri called during this part of the trip and asked where we were. We responded with Poopville and Turd Town.
Journaling: I was able to get this picture because there was a huge tractor-trailer accident that shut down the highway up ahead. We sat here for about an hour and really wished we could have made a pit stop. Brandon and I enjoyed listening to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" repeatedly. Allison can't stand her, so it was unfortunate for her that every radio station seemed to be playing that song every half hour. Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah! Roma-roma-ma-ah! Ga-ga-ooh-la-la!
Journaling: Are you kidding me? Is that really frost on the propane tank for that sorry heater that did not keep us warm at night? Yep. Can I just say that we froze our butts off in that tent? Oh my! It was chilly when we crawled into the tent to watch a DVD together. I had hoped the little ProCat heater would keep us warm but it failed miserably. I don't think we got more than two hours of sleep. I had finally fallen asleep only to be frantically poked in the back by Brandon because he thought someone was creeping around our tent. Just some animal though. Later I heard on the radio that the temperature dropped to 23 degrees-a record low for March in Arizona! Nice to know we were there for that!
Journaling: I paid for 2 nights at the KOA campground but we packed up & left after hiking the Painted Desert & Petrified Forest. No way were we spending another night in the cold! I had reserved 3 nights at the Mather Campground near the Grand Canyon. I told the kids if we saw snow on the ground there was no way we were camping. I would just find a hotel room!
Sure enough, there was snow on the ground near Mather Campground so we got a room. We started unloading all of our stuff. I left the driver’s side door open with my purse sitting on the seat. Brandon was being helpful & shut the door; inadvertently locking the keys in the car. Sooooo, I spent the next 45 minutes trying to find someone to come unlock it. By this time it’s dark & apparently we are staying in some out of the way place. Lovely! Finally found someone that could come over. It took him an hour to get the door unlocked. Brandon & I stood outside in the freezing weather the entire time. Isn’t this Spring Break?
With keys in hand we decide to find McDonald’s. I told the kids I would take them out to eat since they never complained about the freezing night in the tent, the cold or even the keys getting locked in the car. I had gone on line to find the Mickey D’s but MapQuest kept taking me on a 45 mile trip despite the fact that the hotel information stated there was one nearby. Whatever! We decided to hop in the car and just drive out on the main street-surely we would see it soon. As soon as we pulled out of the parking spot there was the Mickey D’s! Right across the street! Are you kidding me?! So, we parked the car and just walked across the street. All that research and all I had to do was turn around while we were freezing our butts off waiting for the locksmith to do his job! Such fun! Grand Canyon here we come!
Journaling: Hiking the Grand Canyon
We enjoyed hiking the trails once we got out of the snow at the higher altitudes. As we traveled down to the Arizona River the snow disappeared and the temperatures rose. We wore layers so we were comfortable. We packed a lot of water with us. The trail guides recommended allowing twice as long to hike back up the Canyon. But, we were able to hike back up as fast as we hiked down. If we had known that to begin with we might have hiked down farther to catch a glimpse of the river. We did pass some people that hiked all the way to the river and spent the night. Now, that is hard-core.
The picture on the left is the agave plant. Agave nectar is used to make sugar. The flower shoot is cut out and the sap collected and subsequently fermented. By distillation, a spirit called mezcal is prepared; one of the best-known forms of mezcal is tequila.
Journaling: Brandon? Angel Wings?
I know, right? Well, I felt he deserves the distinction because he offered to carry my heavy backpack up the trail. I was doing pretty good but I had to stop more often than the kids due to the back-pack. I think the altitude had something to do with it, too. I was just out of breath but my legs weren’t tired. What a good son to just carry it for me! It sure made a difference.
Journaling: Ok, you remember that we decided not to camp despite the fact that we brought the tent, bbq grill, pots, pans, and a cooler full of food, right? Even though it was spring break we were so far above sea level that the temperatures really dropped at night. And, there was still snow on the ground. The website for Mather Campground was advising everyone to bring shovels so they could clear their own camp sites. Forget that noise! So, we checked into the Red Feather Inn just outside the entrance to the Grand Canyon. What I didn’t tell you is that the same night that the keys got locked in the car the toilet clogged. I called housekeeping and they fixed it. Well, it clogged again the next morning so we had to call again. Then, it happened again that night. This time I made Brandon call since he used it last. Then I left. I was too embarrassed to stick around for the third time! Housekeeping decided there was a problem with the toilet. Well, duh! So, they moved us to another room. The new room smelled nice-guess we had gotten used to the slight odor of poo in the old room. The kids enjoyed relaxing and reading after our day hikes.
I cooked most of our meals in the room since we had packed a lot of food with the assumption that we would be camping. We only ate out twice. The second time was over at the Wendy’s. You know we had to eat there since we can no longer get Wendy’s back in St. Louis. I didn’t want to take my purse so I just put $25 in my pocket. Certainly that would be enough money to buy meals for three people. We all ordered burgers, fries, and drinks. *gasp* The total was a few dollars over $25! I told them to make my meal a small so that we had enough money to pay. That didn’t work. So, then I told them to just nix my drink. That still didn’t work. By this time my face is red and the kids are embarrassed. The poor cashier was having a hard time redoing my order so he called a manager over twice. Finally, the manager just gave us his employee discount to get rid of us. (I ended up with change from my $25) Per Brandon: always carry your purse, Mom.
Journaling: On Thursday I wanted to go back to the Grand Canyon but the kids were done. We hiked one day through the trails at the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Then we hiked two days at the Grand Canyon. The hikes at the Grand Canyon were more challenging. So, they talked me into just relaxing in our room. We read books and Facebooked all day. Very relaxing.
Then Friday morning we packed everything and headed for home. I was prepared for fourteen hours of driving but Brandon kept bugging me to stop once it started getting dark. He couldn’t read his book anymore so he wanted a hotel room. I kept going until I got tired of his complaining. We stopped in Yukon, Oklahoma, the hometown of Garth Brooks. It was a very nice hotel but around 10 pm I started hearing sleet hitting the roof. My first inclination was to immediately check-out of the hotel and hit the road. We needed to get home for Grandpa Art’s 90th birthday party on Sunday.
But, I decided to wait and see what morning would bring. I turned on the news in the morning to find that Oklahoma was in the middle of a blizzard! wth! Is this not our Spring Break? What is up with the sleet and snow? Crap! Well, the hotel had a free, hot breakfast so we all showered and chowed. Then we packed our bags and headed outside. It was very windy and very cold. The sleet was still coming down and the locals said it was not a good idea to be out driving now. But, we had to get home so all I could do is be alert and drive verrry slow.
As soon as we entered the highway there was a jack-knifed tractor-trailer. No traffic jam yet as it had just happened. We inched past and continued on our way only to be about run over by another tractor-trailer that was sliding over into our lane. All in all we counted 49 accidents traveling through the sleet and snow, many involved tractor-trailers and some involved multiple vehicles. Of course we had to make a pit stop along the way. We were able to make it to the Tulsa exit with the Hard Rock. Yay! I collect shirts from the Hard Rock so Allison and I braved the elements to buy souvenir shirts. It took eight hours to get through that storm because I never went over 30 mph. It was very scary. By the time we hit the Missouri state line the sleet had turned to a light drizzle.
Now, I was under a time crunch. The dogs were being boarded at PetSmart which closed at 9 p.m. I had to be there by 8:45 or pay another night for them. I really wanted Cody home with me and not in the kennel for another night. I know. I am a sap. Somehow we made it to the kennel by 8:30 even though we had to stop for gas one last time. What a relief! We made it through the blizzard without a scratch and we picked up the dogs on time. It was good to get back home again but the trip was amazing! The next day was Grandpa Art’s party so we were able to make it on time.