Did yesterday happen?

So yesterday was a blur, LOL. I hit Vegas for all of five minutes, visited the Hoover Dam Hotel that also houses a small museum, then Hoover Dam itself, then to Kingman, then on Route 66 through Sitgreaves Pass to the veritable ghost town of Oatman. I’m glad I took that route instead of doing it today, because I’ve probably seen some of the best views Route 66 grants you during so crazy white-knuckle driving moments. Don’t make a wrong turn here if you don’t fancy a 300 foot drop to your death.

So instead of driving Route 66 today, I’m going to take I-40 to Williams, then visit Flagstaff, Sedona and the Red Rock Park before circling back to Williams for the night. I think I’m screwed here as far as being close to the Grand Canyon goes. Priceline simply will not give me a deal under $100 for any hotel in the Grand Canyon Village or nearby Tusayan, so I may have to use Williams as my home base while visiting the Canyons, and that’s 60 miles away. Tourists suck.

But, I got pics, so many pics, wheeeeeee! I’ll have a chance to start sifting through them all and uploading once I land in Durango for and have time to relax for the rest of the week. Stay tuned!

Reflecting on last year’s road trip

In just a few short days I’ll be kicking off my autumn road trip, which made me reminisce a little bit on the trip I took last year.  I wanted to cover as much of the Northwest as possible then, along with a foray into Vancouver so I could visit the same locations that many of my favorite shows were filmed at (such as the X-Files, Fringe and Psych).  Here are some of my photo highlights from that trip:

Lamp Posts in Portland

I’m pretty surprised that some of my favorite snapshots were actually taken with my older iPhone 4s, not the more powerful camera I had on hand (the Canon s95).  I guess it’s true what they say, the best camera is the one you have with you.  Here I got an unexpected result with a quick nightshot after checking in at a nearby Baskin Robbins in Portland.  (Mmmmmmmmm… ice cream…)  Somehow the lighting effect on the lens did more to capture the mood of the city at night than anything I could have done with Photoshop.

Sweeping view of valley and Moot Hood

One of my coworkers loved this photo so much he now uses it as his wallpaper.  Even then, the picture simply doesn’t do the size of Mount Hood justice here.  To the naked eye it towers like a real life Mount Olympus that threatens to engulf the entire sky.  Possibly one of the best vantage points from which you can relax and enjoy the scenery.  (Jonsrud Viewpoint)

Mount Saint Helens Under Sun

I love this picture, because it exemplifies just how easy it was to access the still active volcano, Mount Saint Helens.  How easy you ask?  I took this picture from my CAR.  Honestly, you could almost reach out and touch it from this lookout.  Only time precluded me from spending all day here.

Mount Rainier in Sepia

Mount Rainier was an oddball as far as access goes.  I picked a road that should have led me as close to its peak point as possible without having to hike it out, yet there was no lookout to be found and very little spacing where you could park the car and take pictures.  I took this one and a few others for a few short minutes, then had to FLEE back to the car to ensure nobody wound up side swiping it by accident.

Vancouver Lookout Tower and Sun

After exploring Portland and the nearby volcanoes, I shot straight north to Vancouver, which turned out to be unexpectedly more hostile than I imagined.  I’m not sure why, but the city just seemed to give off unfriendly vibes the entire time I was there.  I noted with interest that one native who commented on a review article of the city described it as a “turd surrounded by flowers.”  LOL

Still, it had its moments, especially when you visit the Lookout Tower.  I have to admit it had supremely better views of the area than its counterpart the Space Needle, but then Vancouver is more deeply nestled into the mountains, so it has something of an unfair advantage here.

Vancouver Steam Clock with red building in backdrop

Vancouver also boasts one of the only remaining steam clocks in the world, which emits a near ear piercing chime every hour.  I found it endearing though, something about watching old tech at work that had a calming effect on me.

Hot Chocolate at Seattle's Best with Duck Tour Bus in background

Seattle was my last stop and Lord I was never so happy to be back in my own country.  The city welcomed me with open arms (and hot chocolates), almost as if it knew how oppressed I had felt staying in Vancouver.

Space Needle Restaurant Lamps and Windows

It may not offer the same spectacular views of Vancouver’s Lookout Tower, but the food was notably better at the Space Needle, as well as the atmosphere.  Moody, and yet serene.  I lucked into coming here during an early lunch hour, having the Needle virtually to myself without even needing to book a reservation.  The menu is also far cheaper during these hours too.  WINNING!

Original Starbucks with Accordion Player

The original Starbucks, and somehow despite the deficiencies of my iPhone 4s, this picture came out perfectly for me.  The earthly/coffee color tones, the accordion player squeezing out a somber melody I couldn’t quite place, the old fashioned businessman sitting at the window, it felt like I had walked into art in motion.  I don’t normally take pictures of people, and yet this spur of the moment shot quickly turned out to be among my top favorites from my trip.

Despite the grueling task of driving thousands of miles on my own, there’s something about the open road that has the ability to help me reconnect with the world in a meaningful way.  I look forward to doing it again this week, as I embark on another journey to destinations unknown.

Taking the stress out of your vacation

Been reading a good article on how vacations can stress people out, a lot of it confirming why it always seems to take a while for me to truly unwind when I’m on vacation, you know, right at that very moment when it’s time to go home again.

Although the study cited suggests you need a minimum of 8 days (8 days???) before the recovery effect starts to take hold, (plus a minimum of 3 weeks to experience lasting results), I found it usually takes me only 4-5 days before my body finally starts to relax… which of course seems to completely defeat the purpose of doing a weekend getaway.  That’s basically what happened the last time I made a getaway to Colorado too.  I was there about 4 days before the tension I felt started to ease, but then I had to go back home literally the day after.  Ugh.  Part of it was my fault and my compulsive need to explore because I just GOTTA see what’s out there, when what I should have done was get enough food and supplies to last me a week, and then literally never leave the cabin until the end of my stay. Lesson learned for next time.

One of the things I’m doing to avoid unnecessary stress for my upcoming road trip this fall is to forgo booking any lodging reservations.  Except for the first night, I have NO clue where I’ll be staying for the duration of the trip, which is exhilarating in a way, but by that same token it also means I probably won’t be able to book a last minute cabin rental in Colorado either.  Once I re-enter Colorado from New Mexico, it’s really up in the air where I decide to stay before I return home.  The only thing I know for sure is that it should be close enough to Denver so I don’t wind up driving 3-4 hours in the early mornings to catch my flight, which would pretty much ruin any relaxation I might have gained from taking this trip in the first place.  Still, that leaves a lot of possible options:  Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Vail, Silverthorne, Dillon, Breckenridge, Buena Vista, etc.  We’ll see where the road ultimately ends.

But before I make that decision I’m literally going to be “pricelining” my way through Arizona and the Grand Canyons in the hopes of snapping up a major steal of a deal due to someone else cancelling a reservation.  Booking ahead of schedule for the Canyons already appeared to be a lost cause even when I tried to book something last month, as traveling dweebs apparently like to book reservations in Grand Canyon Village a year in advance.  A YEAR.  Dweebs.

Still, I’m not worried, if Priceline doesn’t yield anything for me, I’ll just stay in Williams or Flagstaff.  Although I gotta say, Priceline has made me a skippy dippy happy traveler when it comes to landing hoity toity 4 star gigs for less than $100 a night.  I’ve gotten the bidding ninja skills down to something of a science now, so I’m optimistic about my chances of landing a sweet dig within sight of the Canyons.  That’s another advantage to last minute bookings too, because the savings can be tremendous.  That possibility, coupled with keeping to an open ended schedule really does take a lot of the stress out of a road trip, so for me the tradeoffs are worth it.

So with all that in place, here’s hoping I’ll be doing a whole lotta this during my vacation:

Prancing in the meadows under rainbows

And a little bit less of this:

Epic Donald Duck Temper Tantrum

Game On: Planning My Fall ’13 Trip to…

VEGAS!

Boy oh boy, I can’t wait to get there so I can FLEE the city as quickly as possible in my rental to kick off my road trip!

“But Frank, you’re a single and ruggedly handsome dude, Vegas should be the PERFECT place for you to meet hot girls!”

Why yes, I’m sure Vegas is rife with beautiful, sweet, modest God fearing girls who are just waiting for someone like me to come along and sweep them off their feet.  Said NO ONE, EVER.

But that’s neither here nor there.  Vegas will actually be the launching platform to kick off a road trip that will take me from Sin City all the way to Denver in Colorado.  If you took my Fall Trip poll (in the sidebar) you can see the winning vote was for the Canadian Rockies instead, and in fact that’s where I actually plan to go next year.  But for this year there were a couple of reasons why I wanted to do Las Vegas to Denver instead.  One, I had meant to go to the Grand Canyons during my road trip in 2011, but after traveling literally near 2,000 miles on my own, I was too wiped out by the time I reached Salt Lake City to keep going, so I had to cut that portion of the trip out.  Visiting the Canyons will finally finish what I started back then and cross another item off my bucket list.

The second reason basically sealed the decision for me, and involved quite possibly meeting THE girl of my dreams.  Her name is Bonnie Lee:

Bonnie Lee in the Mountains

Bonnie Lee represents an emerging breed of dogs known as the American Alsatian, bred to resemble the looks of the Dire Wolf and with all the traits needed to make it an ideal companion dog.  That means a lower energy dog with a markedly reduced work drive that the average family can better handle.

I’m planning to meet up with one of the breeders who is president of the Vallecito Alsatians kennel in Durango, Colorado, and because Durango would have been one of my stops even if I hadn’t found out about these dogs, it looks like it was meant to be after all.  I’ll have a chance to familiarize myself with this amazing breed as well as have a chance to meet Bonnie and see how we hit it off.

In addition to meeting the dogs, my trip will also include sightseeing at Hoover Dam, visiting Sedona in Arizona (as well as the Canyons obviously), passing through the Four Corners to Durango, then visiting Pagosa Springs, then Santa Fe in New Mexico and finally a relaxing stay in Colorado before I return home.  I can’t wait.

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