Monday, May 9, 2011

Return Trip - Day 7 Walpole, MA

Sunday morning we got an early start. We left by 7am and passed the halfway mark sometime around 11am. The weekend radio shows on NPR were being recycled so we listened to some old podcasts on my iPod. The trip through the farm lands of VA, WVA, MD and PA was very pleasant. We stopped to gas up in NJ at the Service Center at Exit 17W on the NJ-TPK. (they still have people pump your gas in Jersey, no self-service). Then we were shocked back to reality trying to cut across traffic to use the EZ pass lane on the GW Bridge. I had to gas up in NJ because I didn't want to buy gas in CN. The first station in CN on 95 was charging $4.45 per gallon. (I wonder if one day I'll look back on this and think, "only $4.45 a gallon")
Our last stop was to drop in on the Nobles in East Greenwhich. Mike had received great news that his latest scan showed he was totally "clean" and we wanted celebrate a little with him. He seems like the old Mike but we need to fatten him up a bit (Pam too).
We stopped for some groceries, then arrived home to a nice "Welcome Home" sign on our garage door from the Kobeys, unpacked the Jeep and quickly settled into our old lifestye. AAAHHH!

Return Trip - Day 6 PM Monticello, VA

Stopping at Monticello was really a great idea. This was well worth the little detour. We really got a lot out of this visit.
The actual house is located on top of a small hill ( a Monti Cello, next to Monti Alta). There are shuttle buses that take you from the visitor center up the hill for the tours. We arrived about 3 pm in time to sign up for the 3:20 tour.

The house is very well furnished with much of Jefferson's actual propery. The house is the original house and even some of the windows are original. In the entry way there are many arifacts from the explorations of Lewis and Clark whose expedition of northwest was sponsored by Jefferson. The rooms have many of Jefferson's books, scientific equipment and artwork that he accumulated over time. He was very interested in education. He read most of his father's books at an early age and taught himself to read and speak a number of languages. (He read Don Quixote in Spanish on his trip to France where he would replace Ben Franklin as ambassador)

Although he died in debt and much of his possessions were sold off to pay the debt, the Society has been able to recover a lot of what was originally in the house.

Jefferson was a very interesting man. He was a farmer, inventor, architect and statesman. He was also a bit of a contradiction. As the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, he penned "all men are created equal", yet he owned over 600 slaves during his lifetime. He was convinced that all the work done by his generation to establish the country would be lost if the slaves were ever freed. At his death, he freed 5 slave who had learned some trades on his plantation (like making nails). He paid to allow these 5 to remain in Virginia. Otherwise, freed slaves had to leave the state within 1 year of being freed. Sally Hemmings, with whom he is supposed to have had a number of children, was not freed. She stayed with Jefferson's daughter who finally freed her.
The Jefferson's are buried in a plot not far from the manor house.

This was a very enjoyable and informative side trip. It is always fun to learn more about our history and see how intelligent and complicated our Founding Fathers were.

Return Trip - Day 6 AM Elon, NC

Despite our long days driving, we were not in the mood to have a 14 hour day behind the wheel. So, we had looked at a map to see what we could hit on the way home and break the trip into 2 days. We always enjoy visiting the Civil War Battlefields and there are still a number we have not yet experienced. But, we decided to stop at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home.
The road to Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA went right through Greensboro, NC. Our friend, Hillary Noble, is graduating from Elon University, near Greensborro, so we texted to see if she was available for breakfast. We met Hillary at a local restaurant on campus where the owner seemed to know everyone in the place. We had our usual breakfast supplemented with grits, biscuit and gravy. We were short one biscuit, but Hillary promised to send me one.
Hill gave us the executive, 5 minute tour of campus. What a beautiful place. It is a small school of about 5000 students. The architecture of the campus is uniform with all the buildings constructed with red brick and white trim. The landscape is an actual arboritum, so there are beautiful trees everywhere.
This was a nice little detour and it was great seeing Hillary.

Return Trip - Day 5 Charlotte, NC

We got a fairly early start from the hotel in Bessemer, passed through Birmingham, headed out of Alabama, cut across Georgia, clipped a bit of South Carolina and arrived in Charlotte by the end of the day.
Although we had just a had a nice visit with Curt and Terry in Sedona, we free loaded off of them for another night at their home in Weddington, outside Charlotte. Curt had texted Judy to ask what we wanted when we got there. Judy replied, "belly dancers and a massage.", but all we got was a warm reception and a great meal.
We always enjoy Curt and Terry. We sat around the dinner table for a while, had a couple glasses of wine and Curt and I solved (or caused) all the world's problems.
We look forward to our next visit with them. Maybe they'll come back to Sedona for some more adventures next year.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Return Trip - Day 4 PM Bessemer, AL

We left New Orleans about 2pm and headed northeast towards Birmingham AL. We were stopping in Bessemer which is between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. Tuscaloosa was an area most hit by the recent tornadoes. Although we did not see any major damage, the remnants of the tornadoes can be seen everywhere. There were large swaths of trees blown down along the highway. One could see a patch of torn up trees a few hundred yards long, then no damage as if the tornado touched down and then took off. There were many trees uprooted and limbs broken off and many of the highway signs were blown over. Ironically, the weather is gorgeous now.

We met a couple of scruffy characters in the elevator and they told us they had come up from Gulf Shores to help cook for and feed the emergency workers. On TV there is a constant scroll with tips about donating, volunteering, insurance problems, how to report gouging and more useful information. There are many utility trucks other heavy duty trucks, like cranes, in the area to help with the recovery.

If anyone is interested, they can send a donation to the Red Cross or to the United Way Tornado Disaster Fund, PO Box 320189, Birmingham, AL 35232. Or check out for other ways to help out.

Return Trip - Day 4 AM New Orleans, LA

Today, we were spending a little time in New Orleans. On the way, one of the idiot lights on the dash came on. I could not get it to go off, so Judy suggested I call Mike B at his station. I got my Godson, Tim, on the phone. He had me go through a number of on/off sequences to try to get a diagnostic code, but nothing worked. He didn't think it was a major problem but reminded me that it was difficult to diagnose an electical problem over the phone from 1000 miles away. I agreed with him and started up the Jeep and headed out of the parking lot. Before I reached the highway I looked down and noticed the light was off. It was a miracle. Maybe Tim should be nominated for sainthood.

Our first stop was the WW II Museum. This museum was founded by the late, great historian Stephen Ambrose. He wrote a number of terrific books including many about WWII and specially D-Day. We wanted to visit this museum in preparation of our trip to France this June with Mike and Pam. Then, coincidentally, we had great news after we pulled into the museum parking lot. Pam texted us that Mike had passed his latest scan with flying colors, an A+ grade. What great news.
The museum was very interesting. It was loaded with equipment, paraphernalia and photos. Here's one of a cafe in Ste Mere Eglise, a focal point of a lot of the action and a town we will visit this summer.

One of the reasons for the success of the invasion was the amount of deception and mis-information put out by the allies to confuse the German command. The allies created fake camps, fake fleets and even fake parachutists to throw off the Germans.
Here's a photo of the smallest invader.

There is very good 4-D video of the whole war covering the Pacific and Europe. It was a 45 minute multi-media presentation that one could see, hear, feel and smell. Really well done.
Our next stop was the French Quarter. The only thing Judy wanted to do was have a coffee and beignet. The Cafe du Monde is one of the famous spots for beignets in New Orleans, so we hit it. It is right along the river across the street from Jackson Square.

We ordered cafe (I had hot chocolate) and beignets and enjoyed the sights.
We walked through Jackson Square

Got up close and personal with "Old Hickory"

Then strolled through the neighborhood to take in the sights, sounds and smells

We both felt that we could spend more time in New Orleans and plan on coming back for a few days in the future.

Return Trip - Day 3 Baton Rouge, LA

Day 3 was a travel day for the team. We crossed Texas to Baton Rouge LA. We wanted to give ourselves a little time in San Antonio and then get within shouting distance of New Orleans, so Baton Rouge seemed like a good spot. After the tour of the Alamo we had about a 7 hr drive.

Texas is huge. We have now crossed the state on 3 different interstates, I-10, 20 and 40. It always reminds me of the story of the two Texans bragging about the size of their ranches. One says, "it took me all day to drive my pickup across my ranch." The other replies, "Yup, I know what you mean. I used to have a truck like that."

At one point I had to pay $4.10 for gas. I would have thought that gas in Texas would be cheaper but it has been the most expensive. Most places along the highway are about $3.90. Imagine looking for a low price of $3.90. We saw lots of ranches, a huge dairy farm, tons of tumbleweed and one dead armadillo. Other than that, it was a lot of audio books, ipod and satelite radio. Luckily, the Navy SEALS got OBL so that bumped the Royal Wedding stories off the radio.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Return Trip - Day 2 San Antonio, TX

We got a relavtively early start from El Paso as we headed for our next stop, San Antonio. It would be another long day of driving plus we would lose another hour to a time zone change. There are 2 time zones in Texas and we had to stop for gas 3 times to cross the state. I had been to San Antonio once before but wanted to bring Judy there to check out the Riverwalk and the Alamo. The Alamo is one of the places like Little Big Horn in that there were no survivors to tell the real story so we have to rely on legend. I prefer the legend. Travis really did draw a line in the sand with his sword. We arrived at our hotel in downtown San Antonio while there was still some light so we walked over the see the Alamo. They've done a good job maintaining the Alamo with only donations. It takes up about a whole city block and there are beautiful walkways meandering throughout the fortress.
Then we walked along the RiverWalk.

We stopped in a Crab Shack where I could watch the 2nd half of the C's loss to the Heat. Bummer. But the food was good (Red Snapper with Crab Stuffing) and the atmosphere was fun.
Here's an abbreviated video of the "shack"

We went back the next morning to tour the Alamo. There was a pretty good video along with a ton of artifacts from both the Texan and Mexican armies. There was a Bowie knife from that old "Knife Fighter" (imagine that) Jim Bowie along with Davy Crockett's musket that was given to Fess Parker who gave it to the Daughters of Texas for the Alamo display.

I loved it and I was surprised that Judy did too.

Return Trip - Day 1 El Paso, TX

We set out from Sedona about 9am. First, I had to stop at the UPS store to drop off a couple boxes that we are shipping home then go back and pick up Judy. We didn't have enough room in the Jeep for the boxes, all our stuff and Judy at the same time.

We were heading for El Paso, TX on the southern route and I planned on taking I-10 all the way via Phoenix, Tucson, Las Cruces, then El Paso. But, our GPS had us taking the backroads across the Southeast of AZ so we stuck with that route. This route took us through little towns like Strawberry and Pine along the edge of the Mogollon (pronounced Muggy-own) Rim. It was a very pleasant ride and we skipped the boredoom of the highway.

The route took us by Roosevelt Lake and we crossed the Roosevelt Lake Bridge.

Also, we passed through the Tonto National Forest which was more like a desert. The landscape in southern AZ is so much different than other parts of the state. We saw a sign for "cliff dwellings", so we took a slight detour to see them. Double click on the photo then click again to see the enlarged view. You can make out some people in the ruin to give you an idea of the size of the dwellings.

We didn't hike to see them up close as we still had a long way to go. But we did stop for a picnic of PB&J sandwiches and checked out the cactus plants that were in full bloom.

After getting on I-10 somewhere in southwest New Mexico, we only had about 150 miles left to get to El Paso where we would lose an hour due to the time zone change. It was a long day in the saddle.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Update to Swimming at Grasshopper Point

Last Wednesday we were at Grasshopper Point watching the kids cliff-dive. This happened the next day...

Sedona Fire District firefighters carry a 16-year-old boy from the swimming area at Grasshopper Point.

A 16-year-old Sedona Red Rock High School sophomore was flown to Flagstaff Medical Center after sustaining a head injury after falling at Grasshopper Point on Thursday, April 21.

The drop into the water at Grasshopper Point is estimated to be roughly 30 feet.

Emergency crews with the Sedona Fire District responded to the call at roughly 1:30 p.m. following an injury report at the popular hiking spot.

According to witnesses a number of students from Sedona Red Rock High School were cliff-jumping in the area when the boy fell.

The extent of the boy’s injuries is unknown at this time.

Tony's Note: He was later released from the hospital.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Once in a lifetime, twice in one day!

You won't believe what happenned again today.

No need for any words, pictures will suffice.

Zion and environs...

A couple of things for me to remember when I look back on this blog...

It really is amazing how different the scenery can be within a relatively close proximity to each other. Bryce Canyon is like dripping sand castles, Zion has huge rounded layers like Jabba the Hut, the Grand Canyon is, well, it's the Grand Canyon, Arches has the arches (who knew), Canyonlands has layers of deep canyons, around Lake Powell it is like a lunar landscape and you can't beat the slot canyons in Page only a few miles away. What was going on all those years ago to have so many different layers of different types of sediment? One can easily see how the earth was pushed up and delineate the different layers from one area to another.

The other is how distance is sort of meaningless. With so much open area one thinks nothing of taking off for many hours for another experience. It would be like being in our home in MA and saying, "after lunch, let's go to Montreal."

With that in mind, recently, at about 1pm we decided to head out to go to Zion National Park. It would take about 6 hours to get there. We had planned to go there on our way home, but at this point, we may take a southern route to avoid any bad weather. I don't want to blog about tornadoes.

Once again, we were amazed a the beauty of the national parks in the west.

Coming in from the east, the first formations you see are huge, layered, rounded masses that could look like a millennium's worth of cow pies.

Once you go through a couple of man-made tunnels drilled through the mountains, you come into Zion Canyon which seems totally different.

We stopped at the Virgin River Bridge for a view of the muddy water

And made it through the park at sunset on our way to Cedar City for the night

The next morning we took a quick detour through Kolob Canyon at the north end of Zion. Also spectacular. Then we drove back through Zion in the opposite direction. Things look totally new in the opposite direction.
Judy drove so I could enjoy the scenery

We had our Utah Off-road book with us so we decided to take a few excursions into the outback on our way home. First stop was a place called Paria (pronounced Par-eah, like Maria). This was a spot settled by the Mormons in the late 1800's. I guess they stopped there because there was water but now all that is left is an outhouse and a cemetery where most of them are buried. Those in the cemetery either died from the elements or were killed by Paiutes. It was a tough life back then. We were amazed at the scenery but I'm sure that wasn't high on their mind.

Our last adventure took us into the lunar landscape on the Utah side of Lake Powell. We thought we could make it down to the lake itself, but the trails were not marked and it was very difficult to know where we were.
Here I am trying to find our way with my GPS

This place was so different than anything we had seen so far as can be seen by this overhang we drove under.

I had plenty of gas (this time) and there was plenty of daylight left, but it was getting late, so after climbing up and down the trail through deep sand, we decided to find our way back to civilization. On the return, we crossed paths with a couple in a pickup who asked if we knew where we were. Neither of us knew our exact location but were having fun finding our way around.

We got the last room at the Courtyard in Page and spent the night before heading home the next morning.

Note to self...

For my own future reference...
We have kept the hummingbird feeder going but those guys are going through a couple of cups of feed per day. Some water may be evaporating but still, there are probably a half dozen or more birds that hit it all day long, maybe more. This morning, the feeder was empty again and there were birds checking it out and looking at me to fill it up.
Anyway, Judy and I were on the deck waiting for the javelinas to stroll through the yard. We had left the screen door open. When we came back in the house, I heard some noise and thought something was going on downstairs. It turns out one of the hummingbirds was in the house, flying against a window trying to get out. I tried to shoo it away from the window towards the door, but it was insistant on banging its beak against the window. Finally, it got tired and sat on the sill. I slowly approached it and wiggled a newspaper under its feet and lifted it up. It perched on the edge of the newspaper and flapped its wings a bit, but I was able to carry it across the room to the open screen door and let it take off. Judy didn't dare move to take a picture in fear of scaring the guy but we were both pretty pleased to help our buddy out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cleaning out my Camera (Update 2)

Update 1. Added more YouTube videos.
Update 2. Added photos from Grasshopper Point

It used to be cleaning out a file drawer, but now it is cleaning out my card on my camera. So, these will be random photos or thoughts just for my own keeping to get into my blurb book when this blog is done.

I've also updated the slideshow on the left with a few new (er) paintings. Now that I remember how to do that, I'll try to keep it more up to date.

Have had great luck with the Hummingbird feeder. I've had 5 humming around at a time and 3 at the feeder. I think the females can share the feeder, but when a male comes along, he chases everyone else away.
Here a are a couple of female Ana hummingbirds chowing down

We've had some visits from Javelinas. Here are a couple that walked through our patio the other morning. I wonder where they are during the day.
Mom and baby looking for breakfast

We finally took a hike on the Huckaby trail. This trail runs about 3 miles, one way, from Schnebley Hill along the creek across from our place to the famous Midgely Bridge. If you can't cross the creek at the bridge, you have to go back the 3 miles. So, we just went as far as we needed to see our house from the top of the trail. Probably about 4 miles round trip over an up and down trail with a fair amount of climbing and then going downhill.
Our place from the Huckaby Trail

Judy working her way down towards the creek on the Huckaby

Near our place is a scenic area called Grasshopper Point. It is right along the creek and a favorite picnic spot for locals, especially you kids. I guess the water is deep enought at this point to jump in as these kids can attest.

Grasshopper Point is also the location for the trailhead for Allen's Bend Trail. This short trail is very close to civilization but gives you the impression that you are out in the wilderness. Can you believe that the main road to Flagstaff is only 100' or so above Judy's head?

Here are a few videos I took when Curt and Terry were here. The Broken Arrow trail is a great hike but also a lot of fun to drive on. It is a very popular trail for the Pink Jeep company that runs off-road tours in Sedona. I attached my camera to my windshield and let her rip. The scenery is spectacular.
Check 'em out.

Click Here for Up to Submarine Rock .
Click Here for On top of Submarine Rock .
Click Here for Heading down Submarine Rock.
Click Here for On the way to Chicken Point.
Click Here for Chicken Point.
Click Here for Mushroom Cap.
Click Here for Some Slick Rock.
Click Here for The Staircase. Too bad my camera got jostled out of position on this one, but you get the drift.

Stay tuned for more updates with additional photos.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fund Raiser for Pancreatic Cancer Research

This past weekend, Judy and I went home to join with Mike Noble and his extended family in a fund raiser for pancreatic cancer research. Mike is not only fighting his battle but is also doing whatever he can to raise funds and awareness for future generations who may have to combat this dreaded disease.
Mike's team raised more than $35000 for this event. The event itself raised about $80000, so the Nobles brought in almost half of that. Thanks to our friend, Bob Coates, for dropping by the starting line to offer his support.

Judy and I thank those of you who donated for this "Noble" cause. Follow this link if you'd like to donate.

Mike was really surprised when we showed up at his house the night before the event. It was a no-brainer for us as we were already planning to come home to celebrate the end of his treatment and his 59th birthday. Walking in the fund raiser was icing on the cake.
It was a great day. What a turnout in support for Mike. He had the largest contingent of any team. Of course, he also had the largest family of any other team.

Here is the team photo

There was a 10K run, a 5K run and a 5K walk. Some of the Noble clan decided to do the 10K run. Here are a few photos of their efforts.
Matt after completing his run

Here's Mike cheering Emily on...

Kyle has us in his rearview mirror

Here's Hillary and friends about to cross the finish line

This walk was terrific. Not only were we raising money for a great cause, but we got to chat and schmooze with friends and relatives along the way. Mike was in great form (having run 2 miles earlier in the week) and looked great crossing the finish line.
Matt joins his dad as Mike crosses the Finish Line

Not to be outdone, here comes Pam

Judy and Jim had a great time chatting along the way

And Uncle Marc came flying across the Finish Line

A number of members of the Nobles team did well in the running events. Here are Kyle, Emily and Matt who all won medals for having pretty good times within their species.

Afterwards, we all went to Pizzeria Uno for a little after-the-fact carbo loading. Mike gave a very warm and heart-felt speech thanking us all for participating. When Mike expressed his gratitude to us for helping out, someone yelled out, "It's because we love you." That summed it up for all of us who took part in this day. The last official act of the day was to celebrate a couple of birthdays with some gluten-free cake.

Then it was back on the plane for our return trip to Sedona for the last three weeks of this year's adventure.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Busy Day today

I finally got off my butt (or actually "on" my butt) and created 4 new posts today that document some our activities for the past few weeks. Take a look and feel free to add any comments.

Rte 66 and Hoover Dam

We recently read that there is a road off of old Rte 66 that leads to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It is one of only two roads that can do that, the other being the road to Lee's Ferry where the Grand Canyon officially starts, near Page. We were sitting around sunday morning talking about finding this road and touring Hoover Dam while in the area and enjoying parts of the old Mother Road. Judy said, let's go. I hemmed and hawed thinking it was "too late to start anything new", but she insisted and I'm glad she did. Another fun adventure to add to our memory banks.
We hit the road and stopped in Williams AZ for lunch/breakfast in the Pine Country Cafe. Nice friendly place with good service and food. Then off to Rte 66 starting in Seligman, AZ. Had we not been so hungry, we could have waited for this place in Seligman.
Sound Appetizing?
Does anyone remember the old Burma Shave signs on the highways before the interstates? Rte 66 has 'em. From there we headed to Peach Springs which is on the Hualapai (who-wall-a-pie) Tribal land. The road to the canyon is across from the Hualapai Lodge where you need to pay a fee for access to the road. The road leads through a depressing neighborhood of dilapidated homes before it passes through a gate and onto the dirt road that runs 21 miles to the canyon floor. This was really cool. It was a real thrill.
Some photos....

Judy at the Wheel

Judy coming out of the weeds.

I took lots of photos, but I'll try to show the panarama with a video.

BTW, saw these animal tracks in the mud. Put my Swiss Army knife next to them to show relative size (Old CSI trick). Can anyone ID them?

Retracing our path back to Rte 66 was equally impressive.

We spent the night in Kingman before heading to the Hoover Dam the next morning. We had seen the new bridge over the dam when it was under construction, but I wanted to see it completed and walk out on it. Here is a view of the dam from the bridge.

It is called the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tilman Bridge. I think O'Callaghan was a politician in Nevada and Tilman was the ex-Phoenix Cardinal who quit the NFL to join the army and was killed by friendly fire in Afganistan.
We took a tour of the Power Plant. What a madhouse. Seems like everyone is on Spring Break every week out here. Even the busloads of Italiens and Germans.
Here are the turbines on the Nevada side that help provide electricity to over a million homes.

View of the bridge from the dam.

Finally, we crossed into Nevada and headed south toward Laughlin. Laughlin is a mini Vegas on the Colorado River. It has a paddle wheel casino called the Colorado Belle. We didn't stop there. But, the scenery coming into Laughlin from the west was incredible. Worth the detour. No photos...

We headed into Az and looked for the highway to Oatman. It was a dirt road that crossed through some really stark scenery. There were many tracks leading off the main road. We took one just to see where it went...

Then got back on the main road...

At the end of the dirt road, we found the town of Oatman, named after a family that was massacred and their two daughters enslaved by the local Tonto-Apache.

There are wild donkeys left over from the mining days that wander the streets.

Here's one that actually walked into a shop.

By this time, we were toured-out. So, we bought a couple of ice cream cones and got in the Jeep. We had more than 4 hrs to get home, so Judy took out her needlepoint and I put the pedal to the metal and we were home in time to watch the 2nd half of the UConn-Butler debacle.

I thanked Judy for insisting that we take this trip. It was really fun and fascinating.