Saturday, April 29, 2017

To Phoenix...and Beyond! Part Three

My third day in Arizona started early. Summer and I were up at 7:00 so we could drive to the small town of Williams to catch the Grand Canyon Railway. We had to take Interstate 40, which is part of the Historic Route 66. I adore that old American kitsch, so I was very excited.

We listened to Chuck Berry telling us to get our kicks on Route 66, and arrived in Williams ready for an amazing day.

A few weeks before I left, Summer had emailed me a link to the Grand Canyon Railway, asking if I was interested. My response was succinct: "Oh, hell yes!!"

The train takes two hours to get there, but we completely avoided the madness that is driving in and finding parking. There was a dining car on board and tons of entertainment. It was absolutely the best way to get to the South Rim.

Along the way, we passed the North Pole. In December, Grand Canyon Railway does a Polar Express trip that stops here.

Each car has a tour guide of sorts, to give information, point out interesting sites, and help people figure out what they want to do once at the canyon itself. Ours was Amber Rose, and she was hilarious.

There was even musical entertainment.

Finally, we reached the canyon, promising Amber Rose we'd take "that moment" before we sought out lunch.

Summer had never been to the Grand Canyon at all, and I had only been to the North Rim, and this over 20 years ago. We were both excited. We walked through one lodge building in Grand Canyon Village, and out towards...

Life is Grand, Cali Swimmy.

I was in front as we walked out of the lodge, and I started laughing. The view is so incredible, and the canyon is everything you could possibly hope it will be.

I turned to see Summer's reaction. She was silently mouthing the word, "Wow." We spent a few minutes just taking it in and snapping pictures, before going back inside to find lunch.

After lunch, more wandering. We weren't out to hike, because Summer had foot surgery last summer and still can't do strenuous hiking. The South Rim Village was perfect, because we could walk around taking pictures, but also have plenty of opportunities to rest. There's an interesting gallery and, of course, plenty of shops.

There were books on hand for children, and I thought this was genius. 

A squirrel, eating food given to it by people... to a sign that warns people not to feed the squirrels (and other animals).

But the squirrel was CUTE, so I used my zoom lens. 

Hopi House

We had about three hours in the park, and then it was back to the train. 

I'll write another post about having dinner in Historic Williams on Route 66. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Garden Girl

I now have a garden. Well, kind of.

I've never had much of a way with houseplants. I either panic and over-water them--literally loving them to death--or I completely forget I have them and they die of severe dehydration. It baffles me, because my mother's garden is incredible and she coaxes incredible beauty out of even the most stubborn houseplant. Even her cats don't dare touch them. 

Meanwhile, I managed to kill three succulents just in the last six months. And they survive droughts.

Either I'm guilty of abusing plants or I'm hopelessly optimistic, because a couple months ago, I brought home two small houseplants, figuring if I could keep a couple of $3 plants alive, then I'd graduate to something fancier. So far, things are looking...shaky.

I think I simply misjudged the type of light they need--when the instructions say "indirect sunlight," they don't mean, "kind of in the light, but there's a semi-transparent curtain in the way. My little charges started to droop and get brown around the edges. I stuck my finger in the soil and determined I wasn't over- or under-watering them. So they've gone out to my balcony for now, to get some sunshine. Fortunately, the balcony gets light, but not a direct hit.

And because I'm hopelessly optimistic (or I just like hurting defenseless plant life), I impulse-bought one of those little metal buckets with a dehydrated soil pellet and forget-me-not seeds in the bargain bins at Target. I happily added water and fluffed the soil with a fork, and dropped the tiny seeds in. A week or so later, we had a few days of pouring rain, and I suddenly realized the bucket doesn't drain. Emergency water-removal was performed...and whaddaya know, a few days later, a tiny sprout stuck it's little head out. It was followed by two more, and I'm crossing my fingers that they'll continue growing and thriving and not getting murdered.

It's not that I want to commit planticide, they're just so much less communicative about their needs than my cats are.

Today, I took it one step further. I found a pot of miniature daffodils--my favorite flower--at Trader Joe's, and happily carted them home, riding shotgun and listening to Keane with me. I know they'll die soon-ish, and that they'll lie dormant in the soil for several months. There's not a lot that even I can do to kill off daffodils. They're hardy little flowers.

I've got three empty pots at Mom and Dad's house. Mom has promised me some cuttings from her gardens. Apparently geraniums are also hard to kill (challenge accepted, Mom), so we'll see how things go. I have visions of a grand little balcony garden, and high hopes that I can keep it all alive without minimal experience and a measuring cup full of water. 

The good news is, if things start looking woebegone, it's off to Dr. Sue's Garden of Wonder for a permanent relocation and all the tender loving care she can provide. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

To Phoenix...and Beyond! Part Two

Thursday dawned warm and dry--not only is the UV index higher in AZ, the humidity is lower. It is, after all, a desert.

Summer had mentioned needing a bit of time before we left on Thursday to check in with her online classes, and I had brought my running shoes because my momentum has been really great lately and I didn't want to lose it.

I ran two miles, but it was definitely more labored than usual--the dry air and the elevation difference (I later Googled it, and Peoria is just a hair over 1,000 feet higher than Antelope) took their toll. Still, I felt good, and glad I'd done that for myself. In a smart move, I'd brought my hydration belt with me.

Summer's neighborhood--I didn't worry about getting lost,
there's lots of looping streets and I had GPS on my phone,
of course.

If you look closely, there are two small birds on the two
small round parts of the cactus on the right. I didn't realize
this when I took the pic. 

Proud desert runner. 

Summer and Ben's house, and the awesome tree in the yard.

Buddy. I have a favorite thing with him. I say, "Buddy" in my
best silly voice, and the tip of his tail thunks on his bed. We
do this over and over, and he gives me those puppy eyes. 
By 8:30, we were on the road for the two-hour drive to Flagstaff...with a twist. It would end up taking us all day to get there, because we had Plans.

While Summer had been teaching her class, I was perusing Google Maps and our route to Flagstaff. I found something called Montezuma's Castle, and it turned out to be a Native American site--an 800-year-old cliff dwelling. I suggested it in a semi-pleading voice to Summer as a possible stop, and she enthusiastically agreed.

As we left Peoria, I caught this sign pic.

Leaving the greater Phoenix area.

Montezuma's Castle is a national park, but it's not a very big one. The total loop walk is one-third of a mile, but it's a lovely walk, and, of course, you get to see what I saw described online as "eight hundred year-old apartments."

Oh, I will. 

You come around a bend in the path, and there they are.

I asked if I could take a picture, and he nodded.

Of course, I took some pictures with my Canon, too.

Before hitting the freeway, we stopped for gas and bottled water--I was thirsty the whole time I was in Arizona--and I saw a Kettle Corn food truck in the gas station parking lot, which struck me as hilarious.

Our next stop was Sedona, and before I post pictures of the town, let me make one thing clear: 

Yes, I probably saw Snoopy Rock. Here's the thing, though: I didn't recognize it, so I can't tell you where it was...because (here comes the unpopular opinion) it doesn't look like Snoopy. Trust someone who knows Snoopy very well. I saw a lot of red rocks. Some that vaguely resembled Snoopy on his doghouse. But none that screamed, "That's it!!" Because the rock. Does. Not. Look. Like. Snoopy.

Enough about that.

After Montezuma's Castle, we left the main highway and turned off onto a smaller one towards Sedona. We were happily driving along, and then we came around a bend. BOOM. The landscape went from low green scrub to red rocks. It was pretty amazing.

We stopped at a rest stop and visitors center to take some pictures.

I got my Canon out, of course.

Then it was onward towards Sedona.

Sedona is one of those artsy places that springs up from time to time--very spiritual and with tons of chi-chi shops and restaurants. It was very cute, of course, and we enjoyed looking around a large shopping area after having lunch.

Of course Cali Swimmy came with me! It's not too hot in
Sedona, but he was still grateful for a quick paddle. 

A random little chapel in a shopping area.

Of course, Kokopeli is everywhere.

Einstein, just hanging out. We also saw Mark Twain.

From Sedona, it was not too far to Flagstaff--the endpoint of our journey for Thursday. We had booked a hotel room in the small city, and I was anxious to see the famous historic Route 66 (now Highway 40), which runs through town.

There were a few of these in the historic district. I didn't try
one out.

We had to cross a busy track to get to the brewery for dinner, and
both times, we had to wait for very long trains. It reminded me
of my Chico days, when I'd have to wait for a train before I could
get the last half-a-block to my apartment.

Yes, I bought one, and yes, it was delicious (strawberry).

Flagstaff had lots of great signs.

Longest. Train.


The disembodied hands on this one were a bit creepy.

We were both exhausted from a full day, and we had a very early start the next morning for a very Grand adventure (I'm not being subtle at all).