Zion

What’s there to say about Zion NP, except that it’s beautiful. Of course, pictures don’t do it justice. The stone walls are so massive- you have to be there.

When you enter the park from the East (near Kanab), the huge rocks and canyons are overwhelming. You could spend all day on the East side before you even get to the old tunnel. Then when you emerge on the other side, there’s even more splendor.

The main valley drive was full and closed until late in the day, so we took a hike on an unmarked trail.

Give me back my cane, you whippernsappers!
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The main canyon (the valley up-and-back drive finally opened)

This guy was watching the California Condors, who nest way up the rock wall.

After a fun day of tromping around the park, we got on the highway and headed SE to Las Vegas.

My gambling days are way behind me, and the place gives me the creeps now. Still, it was fun to show the boys the lights of the Strip, and give them a taste of America’s seedy underbelly. I got a room at the California hotel & casino, downtown, where the Hawaiians go for their Vegas hit.

To get to your room you have to walk through the casino, for obvious reasons.

excitement at the high-rollers table- that plexiglass looks permanent

It used to be they’d make sure the kids didn’t hang out long on the casino floor. If you had a room you were expected to get Timmy and Bethany up there quick and not linger in the gaming area. Now the indifferent dealers, pit bosses, concierges and ubiquitous security personnel couldn’t care less.

Carla asking the barmaid for another vodka tonic. That and the pack of Winstons by her plastic coin tray exempt her from the health mandate. Just a reminder here- this is the DW Shumway children’s book fans and family webpage.

The diner at the California had a two-hour wait so I took them out to the covered walk- The Freemont Street Experience. It was past the family hour (though plenty of families were out and about). They had security set up and the sign said no backpacks and no minors. The boys are minors and each had a backpack. I watched a Mexican family with four kids including a two year old waltz past the bored guard, so we did too. Backpacks all over the place. The Experience featured mobs of people just hanging out, and blaring music, lights glaring everywhere, homeless, wafts of herb, street performances featuring robotic dancing, grotesque costumes, twerking, a guy in a wheelchair with a dancing Chucky puppet, a photo op with leather-clad, rope-wielding Melinda the Dominatrix, a seven-year-old boy with thumping amp behind him rapping a song that featured the endlessly-repeated chorus “Chicken Wings! Chicken Wings, Yayah!”, etc. If you took a Mayan woman off the street in Xcalacdzonot, Quintana Roo and set her down in the Freemont Street Experience at 11pm on a Saturday night and told her she was in Hell, she wouldn’t doubt you.

For all the crowds outside milling about, there wasn’t much gambling going on inside. I saw a marquis advertising the proverbial Vegas steak and eggs for 11 dollars (used to be a buck 99 after hours at Golden Nugget back in the day) and so we walked through a sepulchral casino area to the tropical-themed, thick-carpet dining room with plush, torn-upholstery booths. Ah, Vegas. The host sat us in the darkest corner of the room and I asked the waitress if we could move to the light area in front of the permanently-closed buffet. “Sure!” she said but when the host came back he barked, “You guys can’t sit there! It’s closed!” But Nancy overruled him and we remained. I ordered one beer which the 72 yr. old barmaid delivered in a can, with plastic cup “in case you want to drink it that way”. She was nice and tried to chat up the boys, mentioning Zog Blasters 400 or some such video game that her grandkids played. Allen nodded, indicating yes, he knew that one.

You can tell they have the Vegas fever.

The steak was so-so. The vegetable was peas, carrots and corn straight out of a Del Monte can. Of course the boys loved it.

At least the room was nice. We got a good-night’s sleep before our 4 1/2 drive to LA. I wasn’t sad about leaving Vegas.

view out the window of our hotel

The Plaza used to have some of that old Downtown, cheezy character. Most rooms are empty now in this era of the Reset, and they’ve covered all the windows on the SE wall with this Order of the Illuminati mural.

By the casinos of Babylon,

where we rested for a night,

Yea, we wept,

When we remembered Zion.

Utah 2

first a couple more shots from Bryce Canyon:

No son, the Rocky Mountain Juniper is the one on the left. You’re looking at a Colorado Pinyon. Get it straight.

Owen is a good sport about me setting up these goofy travelogue photos.

Bryce Panorama

Owen looking a lot like his sister here. Now he’s the one that will not consent to a haircut. 15 yr. olds!

We spent the night down at Kanab, just north of the Arizona border. I’d promised the boys a proper meal at a restaurant, but it was too close to closing time so we settled for an old 50s style drive-in- the kind where they used to skate out to your table. There was an old crate full of coke bottles from the era when they used to re-use them, like they still do in Mexico and Costa Rica. (a propos- I recommend the Michael Keaton movie, The Founder- about Ray Crock and McDonalds; watched it with the boys.) All the wonderful, goofy milk shake flavors you get at these small-town drive ins, and what do the boys choose? chocolate and vanilla. You can take the Japanese out of Japan, but…

I thought our hotel was in the uninteresting part of town, and the only sensory enrichment would be the Book of Mormon in the drawer, courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Swensen and their 19 kids (charming photo glued to inside cover), but in the morning we woke up and noticed the sweet view out the back window.

Off to Zion National Park!

Utah

bucolic back-window view at the Motel 6

Note the bear target next to the woodshed.

On our way south out of Nephi.

Butch Cassidy’s house
Bryce Canyon
A and O taking a hike into Bryce Ampitheater

Now I know how my pop felt when he couldn’t join my brother and me on a hike. I sat up at the rim with my bum ankle and watched the boys as they disappeared among the spires.

O in the canyon

Allen said that Bryce Canyon was the most beautiful place he’s ever been to. We’ll see if BC holds up at #1 when we visit Zion NP tomorrow.

Idaho Falls and points south

We had to pay a visit to the Terwiligers at the southern end of the Bitterroot Valley near Sula. We hung around to chat long enough that it started to get dark. Mr. T said, “Be careful on that road. The deer come out around 4.” We drove slowly up the pass and let the racing pickups pass by when we got a chance. Indeed saw a couple deer near the shoulder of the road but no close calls like just last week in Stevensville. After Salmon, except for a little starlight, it was near pitch black on the lonesome highway. I noticed the temperature outside had dropped to the low 20s and thought, “Hmm. Hope we don’t have a breakdown out here in no-reception zone.” No deer encounters but we saw splatter at least three times. Remember the far side cartoon where the deer are deciding when to cross the road and one says, “wait…wait…OK, Go!” just as the headlights of the speeding car are close enough for a certain fatal collision; that’s pretty accurate.

Found a nice, family-owned motel in Idaho Falls. For dinner- back to road trip eats; the old two-taco special at Jack in the Box! It was only a buck for two in California; up here in Idaho it’s a buck sixty! (or has the inevitable hyper-inflation already begun?) Owen and I love those greasy gut bombs; Allen said that was enough for this trip thank you very much.

Idaho Falls has a wonderful downtown greenbelt. They engineered the water flow so that the Snake River comes over the same fall hundreds of yards long. Allen took most of these pics in IF.

We’re smiling because we’re talking to a happy couple on the path and it’s the familiar cliche story- Californians who’ve sold their property and moved to calmer pastures in not-yet-gridlocked mountain state locations. The Bitterroot was chock full of ’em. This guy and his wife had left Ventura to escape the tax burden. They were meeting some friends at an upscale brewpub ‘n sushi bar in an all red-brick complex across the street. I guess you can bring California along with you! There were no dented F150s in the parking lot.

I like to give Allen the camera and let him come up with a nice shot.

Hell’s Half-Acre, between Idaho Falls and Pocatello
Allen wandering off- see the red speck in the distance.

I made the boys read each sign along the interpretive path in this high-desert landscape. Allen is great at spotting wildlife. He saw three rabbits and I saw none!

Downtown Pocatello

We had dinner at a crusty little Mexican joint next to a gas station. Proper Mexican/American! with all the good stuff like Steak Fajitas (Owen) and Pollo a la crema (Allen). Owen’s image of Mexican food is my old restaurant, El Techo, in Hamamatsu, and Jack in the Box two-for-a-buck tacos. “Wow, this is really good!” enthused O.

Elena brought my bottle of beer. Pointing to the beer list I said,

“Gracias. Me gusta la Negra Modelo pero donde esta mi favorita?”

-Cual es tu favorita?

-Bohemia.

-Que es eso?

-Bohemia?! Es una cerveza riquisima de Monterrey!

When your Mexican waitress knows not of Mexico’s best beer. For crying out loud!

taking Ivy to the next level in Pocatello

We took a short drive through the Idaho State campus, then got back on 15 and headed to Salt Lake City.

After six+ months in the Bitterroot, and even less populated parts of Montana, it was a bit of a shock to hit the Salt Lake sprawl and see endless miles of suburbs and satellite cities from the freeway. It wasn’t the worst driving experience and we came in just after rush hour, but the breakneck speed, crazy lane changes, tailgating and such made me wonder how people manage to remain sane in our crowded metropolises across the country.

In Salt Lake City we had our first whiff of smog in half a year. Oh, Montana- how fortunate you are. I took the boys on a drive through downtown, past the temple, up to the Capitol. Owen enjoyed the big buildings, busy streets and illumination, and wished we could have a city visit with downtown hotel, restaurant and walks, but Allen and I were happy to get out of there and back on the road. The sprawl continued for many miles to the south. It wasn’t until well south of Provo that the stars came out again and the blackness surrounded us. I made a sigh of relief but Owen, who loves the city and the crowded neighborhoods with all the Christmas lights let out a sigh of sadness.

Next. South to Bryce Canyon

Goodbye Montana

Our last weekend in Montana was busy.

Allen and Owen have shot all kinds of different guns by now, but before Sunday they still hadn’t shot the AR-15. Allen was really looking forward to this. Neighbor Arnie kindly brought us down to the range and we set up targets against the hill.

expert instruction

Saturday morning some local friends invited us to breakfast at their hilltop villa on the east side of the valley. Allen looking for the best vista.

Sunday Owen and I made sure we didn’t miss our last pick-up soccer opportunity at Hamilton High. As Owen was putting his cleats on, I said, “Listen O., this is our last game on the trip. Let’s not get injured, OK?”

“OK.”

It was a good crowd; no slouches. We took advantage of our extra man and really made the other team work. I was having perhaps my best day of the year. Owen and I were making lots of passes to each other, and it’s easy to be accurate on the turf. Owen found me open in the middle and I put one in with the left foot for one of my two goals. Later he made another pass under pressure and I raced to trap it and take it to the goal from the right side. The ball bounced high and I made an awkward plant with my right foot to raise my left to block the ball. Artificial turf just grabs your foot and doesn’t give at all. My foot got locked in place and my body went tumbling over. A spasm of pain hit me and I went down, rolling and grimacing just like the Argentinians and Italians do when they ‘dive’ (fake a foul). I was lying flat looking up at the sky, thinking how blessed I was to survive without injuries through summer and fall, being able to play with my son, and then these five little kids in their winter parkas came up. They were between 2 and 8 yrs. old. “Are you OK? Our mom saw you and asked us to come see you need help.”

I said I’d be OK and off they ran.

I spent the rest of the evening in the car, keeping my sprained ankle warm and watching Owen play 5 on 5 without me.

our fantastic hosts Bob and Barbara- all my weight on the left leg
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Goodbye Montana; we’ll miss views like this.

Last photo in Montana- at the Lost Trail ski area, which sits astride the Montana/Idaho border on US93.

Tonight’s destination, Idaho Falls via Salmon.