Updated August, 2000
It was the first week in May and time to prepare for traveling. "Plan ahead," I told myself. We had a three week trip scheduled with our daughter, Deb, starting the middle of May into the heart of the canyon country, then a week back in Jojoba, then we planned to be traveling for four months to the north, as far as Canada. "Plan ahead!" I said.
Alice and I took the truck into town for a brake job. At the same time I had them beef up the suspension a bit. While we waited I had a chance to work on Smoke Signals. We also visited the Barnes and Noble bookstore across the street and I purchased a book on writing mysteries and another on plots. While looking over the books in the store, I met a young lady (name unknown) and we talked about her plans and aspirations. She was about 19 and had "been around" as she put it, leaving school at 15 because she was bored, hitch-hiking around the country, etc.
The day we met she was leaving her boyfriend and going back to school -- she wanted to become a webmaster and considered herself a nerd. She was a very interesting character; I decided her name must have been Tiffany. A couple of days later, after I had read the books I had purchased, I decided to start a mystery and used Tiffany as the main character. I'll tell you about the story of Bodie and Tiffany as that book progresses.
Before we left town we went by Costco to shop. They had some smoked salmon that looked pretty good, so we bought a pound and took it home. We invited Bud and Margie Lewin over and finished the whole thing with wine, capers, sweet Vidalia onions, and rye bread! Boy, was it ever good! Unfortunately, as we found out later it is also habit-forming.
Alice and I got back into the routine of going down to the pool for aquasize on MWF at 10am. It is really good for us to get that exercise. When we are on the road we pay the price of too little activity. It is a 45 minute routine that leaves you feeling good.
Bud Lewin and his crew finally got the new fountain spewing in the pond down the street the way he wanted. It looks great, but when the wind is blowing you get wet walking down the street.
I started on the Bodie mystery, following the general procedures outlined in my new book on mysteries. The plot is interesting, and at least it is a change from the earthquake book.
At the beginning of the year I had started a project to improve our lot at Jojoba Hills. The plan was approved by the landscape committee for me to build a terrace with railroad ties around the shed, providing a place where we could plant some flowers and show off rocks. I am also planning to line the ditch at the back of the lot with a row of railroad ties on one side and flat rocks on the other. When those pieces are all installed, my plan is to cover the lot with decorative gravel so that we will stop tracking in the small pieces of decomposed granite that always sticks to the bottoms of our shoes.
During the first four months of this project I had started the first phase, purchased some railroad ties, and put some of the terrace around the shed. With only two weeks to go before we traveled I decided it was time to at least finish the installation of the railroad ties. That was real planning-ahead! Anyway, I worked on the project off and on, and one-by-one I was getting the railroad ties in place. I got so busy I had to go back into Temecula and purchase the remaining ties I would need.
We started planning for our trip to Canada and checked into what was required concerning pets. We learned you need an certificate from some authority that the pet is healthy and has had the required vaccinations. So we made an appointment for Wolf to see the veternarian in Temecula. When we took him in, we commented on how he seemed hyperactive much of the time. This lead to a discussion of ... well, you can guess what alternative came up. After consultation with the vet, we decided to change Wolf from a him to an it. Boy, was Wolf surprised when we left him there. Like I said, "Plan ahead!"
The next day we came back to pick him up. He was tired and groggy but seemed glad to see us. The vet said to put an Elizabethan collar on him to keep him from attacking the stitches. That worked until four days later when we let him out of the collar for five minutes and presto, the stitches were gone. A couple of weeks later, I found there was one he had missed, so I took that one out myself.
Continuing to plan ahead, I ordered tickets over the Internet to the Calgary Stampede for the time we would be going through Calgary, Alberta, in July.
On the 12th of May Deb arrived, having driven down from Sacramento in her Chevy Prism sedan. She would be trailing along in her car as we pulled the trailer on our trip to the canyons. I hauled Little AL out of storage and we started packing for the trip. Alice noticed that one of the trailer tires was losing tread, so we took the trailer over to the maintenance building and replaced the tire with the best of the spares.
The next morning I worked harder to get all the railroad ties installed. In the process, I pulled a muscle in my back and had to stop. It really hurt. We were a full week into the trip before the pain dropped to a point where I could stand erect.
On Sunday Deb, Alice and I drove over the mountain to Palm Desert to have breakfast with my sister Janet and her husband Michael. We had a great visit. I read to the assembled throng what I had written so far on the Bodie novel: the first eight chapters. Everyone enjoyed it and provided good suggestions on how to change it. They are anxiously waiting for me to finish it.
Later that evening, we drove back up the mountain to Jojoba Hills to finish packing for the trip.
Early Monday morning we were up early and finished getting ready to head out.
We headed over to I-215. Deb was following in her car and we were in contact with the radios. We made good time up the Interstate. The traffic was getting more and more crowded as we traveled. Once we made it through the interchanges for I-10 I thought we were in the clear. Then I heard a funny noise, like someone had popped a paper bag. When I glanced in the rear view mirror I saw one of the tires on the left side of the trailer was flat. About the same time Deb came on the radio and said I had a blowout.
Luckily, it was only 200 yards to the next exit. I already had my foot off the fuel pedal and was slowing. We drove off the freeway without problem and then down the street a block. We parked there, somewhere in the middle of San Bernadino.
After inspecting the damage (tire was not repairable, Ha, Ha) I walked over to a nearby business to see if they knew of a tire shop in the area. They spoke only broken English but I got the idea there was a place a few blocks away. We searched around on foot and finally checked the yellow pages before we found a place. We called on the cellphone and determined the shop had tires that would fit the trailer.
Having the GPS was a real help. It turned out the place was about two miles away but the detailed map showed me a back way and I did not have to travel the main thoroughfares. I pulled the trailer through the back city streets to the tire shop and made arrangements for five new tires. They suggested a Mexican restaurant down the street so while they fixed the tires, we ate. It took about two hours all together, but we had a good meal and got a new set of tires.
After that it was the usual 297 mile trip across I-15 to the Las Vegas TTN park on Boulder Highway. It was quite hot, well over 100 degrees, when we went through Baker, but pulling Little AL, the Dodge seemed to almost feel frisky. What a difference 7,000 pounds make.
A primary reason for making Las Vegas one of our stops was to have a chance to go to the StarTrek Experience at the Hilton. Deb had done it the last time we met in Las Vegas and wanted Alice and me to see it. It is a very interesting exhibit, though it is something that only a true Trekkie can fully appreciate.
The Las Vegas stop also gave the three of us a chance to find out how well we fit into a 26 foot fifth-wheel trailer. It was crowded, but we found out how to make it work. A curtain in the hall gave us the needed privacy and Deb fit the couch just fine. Initially, one of the biggest conflicts was between Wolf and Deb's sheltie, Bandit. By the end of the trip, the two dogs had become bosom buddies.
Wednesday morning we packed everything into the trailer and headed towards the Grand Canyon. Deb had the 2m handheld with her in her car and I used the transceiver in the truck, so we stayed in communication all the way.
We drove over to the US95 freeway and went south to Boulder Dam. The truck handled the steep downgrade to the dam quite well. The dam remains the same as before. The drive over to Kingman, Arizona, went quickly, then we turned east on I-40.
Along the way I needed fuel and it was lunch time so we pulled off at Seligmans and went over to the old US66 highway that serves as the town's main street. The town makes quite a thing about the old highway. We picked a place called Lilo's to eat and had a good meal. They also had a full set of souverniers, but we made it out without too many.
Back on I-40 the pavement was a bit rough from time to time, but we made it to Williams in good time and turned north on Highway 64. That highway merged into US180 and we continued north. Both highways were smooth two-lane roads and easy travel with few inclines.
When we reached the Grand Canyon National Park entrance, I presented my Golden Age Passport and Alice bought hers (for $10) to cover Deb's car. What a deal, and the Golden Age passports are good for the rest of our life or until we lose them. The passport gets us into any National Park or Monument without charge and gives discounts on some camping and other user fees. Old folks need perks like this.
We journeyed on up the road to the South Rim campground and pulled in for the night having driven 270 miles for the day. Alice did the parking while I directed her and it went very well. We need to try that method more often. The next day we moved over to the trailer park and paid an extra $14 a night for full hookups. The women wanted it and I was told to agree it was a nice convenience.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is a pleasant place to visit but there are lots of people around. Most of the tourist area is within walking distance. They have shuttle-buses to take you from observation point to observation point along the rim. We stayed on the South Rim for six days, long enough to see most of the rim sites, visit the Imax theatre, and take many, many pictures.
Deb is a real camera buff, and she really had a hey-day at Grand Canyon. I didn't do too badly myself, taking over 250 photos. We had continuing discussions about which was better for storage: her flash cards or my floppy disks.
Take a look at Grand Canyon, South Rim for my photo-log of this segment of our trip. One interesting thing I did was to take several panoramic series and then use the PhotoVista program to stitch them together into a wide-angle picture. There is one in the photo-log. You can down-load it for the full view, but it is over 1 megabyte long, so start the download only if you have the time.
One highlight of our trip to South Rim was when we went to the Imax theatre in Tusayan, just outside the south gate of the park. The theatre shows the Grand Canyon feature on the wide angle screen. There are aerial sequences and river boat sequences in the film, both of which will take your breath away. You get to see the canyon in a way that is not possible from the rim. I highly recommend seeing that show if you get the chance. But you might consider taking some dramamine before you go, else you might get sea-sick from riding the waves in the rapids going down the river.
Internet access at the Grand Canyon is sparse. We found a place in Tusayan, just across the road from the Imax, where we could rent a phone line. We paid $5 for 30 minutes. Deb had some FTPs and big emails she had to process, and I did some web checking. There was nothing we could find in the park itself.
On Tuesday, the 23rd, we headed for the north side of the canyon. There had been a huge forest fire on the north side of the Canyon the North Rim campgrounds were still closed. So we decided to choose Fredonia or Kanab as our camping destination.
We drove east on Highway 64 past several viewpoints we had not visited. The road was good but wound around at times. Further along they had rerouted some of the highway from when I was a kid, so we didn't come as close to the canyon of the Little Colorado as I remembered.
We turned north on US89 at the junction and continued up the road. When we reached US89A, we continued north rather than jogging over to go to Page. This took us by Marble Canyon, another place I remembered from when I was sixteen.
The old bridge is now a walkway across the canyon and provides a great chance to see the river below. When I was a teenager I stood on the top of the canyon and was amazed when a rock I threw towards the river curved back into the side of the canyon below me (an optical illusion). Now there are signs warning you not to throw rocks.
The new bridge is impressive in itself. It is hard to believe it is over 500 feet down to the water. There was nothing on the river to use as a distance gauge. You could see clouds of muddy water under the green surface water roiling up from the bottom, so you could tell the river is moving right along.
Around Marble Canyon are the Vermillion Cliffs. These run for miles parallel to the river to the west and east. In some places down the road there are weird rocks that have fallen down from the cliffs. One even served as the backside of a house along side the road. Deb got a picture of that one.
It was quite hot at Marble Canyon. We had thought about having lunch there, but it was much too hot. So we headed on to the west looking for higher ground. We climbed up out of the Colorado River plain to the Kiabab Plateau and the temperature moderated a bit. After a brief stop we headed on towards Fredonia.
Fredonia is in Arizona, just across the border from Utah. The story is that when the US Federales came to Kanab to check for poligomy, all the extra wives packed up and went for a visit in Fredonia. The town's name means "free women." We looked over the Fredonia RV lot as we drove through town and decided to go on to Kanab. The first RV park we passed on the other side of the border looked hot and dusty, so we decided to check out the next one.
The RV Park in the center of town had big shade trees all around so we pulled in. It was the Hitch'N'Post RV Park. We ended up staying there for ten delightful days. The fellow who helped maintain the park hated the trees. He said in the spring and summer the flowers fell all over the place, and in the fall the seed pods fell. But the flowers on the trees in May were a big part of the beauty of the place.
This park is one of the older ones in the area, and some of the spaces are tight, but it makes up for those problems with the nearness to everything in Kanab and with the trees and grass. Did I mention the cherry bush full of ripe fruit out next to the road? And we soon found out the ladies running the place were great.
The owners had decided it was time to go visit back east and attend the wife's 50th class reunion. So they left their grand-daughter, Tosh, in charge. She was very, very pregnant, but not planning to deliver for another two or three weeks -- at least until her grandparents got back. Her mother, TJ, checked us in because Tosh was at the doctor's office with some strange pains. TJ also directed us to a fine Mexican restaurant just down the street.
When Tosh returned that evening she explained everything to us and assured us she did not plan to have the baby soon. Ha, Ha!
The next day we took a short (43 mile) drive into Zion National Park to give Deb a feel for the place. We spent quite a bit of time around the area where the canyon walls look like a checkerboard. She was able to get an idea of what we would see and photograph when we went back for our full-day trip. Then it was back to Kanab for an update on Tosh and out for another great dinner, this time at Houston's Grill.
Thursday morning we got up early and packed to go to Bryce Canyon. The dogs stayed at home.
It was a longer drive, 90 miles, and there were some storm clouds in the sky, but the sky had mostly cleared by the time we made it to the southern end of the rim-road at Bryce National Park. We had lunch with a couple of chipmunks and started taking pictures. We worked our way back up the road, stopping at over half of the photo opportunity pull-offs. The clouds played with the sun and allowed us to get some spectacular shots with the varying shadows. My Bryce Canyon photo-log has a collection of photos you can see it by clicking on this link. Again, watch out for the large panoramas -- they are very big files.
The next day was a rest day, and we talked with TJ about how things were going with her daughter. Tosh had gone to the hospital in St. George and was in labor. We watched over the park a short while when TJ took time to do some personal business. She had not been planning on running the RV Park along with taking care of her small ranchette outside of town.
On Saturday we drove back to Zion. This time we parked at the visitor center, looked through all the exhibits and caught the shuttle bus that takes people to the upper end of the park. We got off at the dripping wall and took some pictures there. Then we reboarded and went to the Narrows. We walked the one plus miles to the end of the paved trail, along with a couple of thousand other people. Deb and I were taking pictures of every flower we could find along the way. My Zion Park photo-log can be viewed by clicking on this link.
We hung out and just enjoyed the scenery at the narrows. There were very many people, including lots who had walked on up the Virgin River. We kept our feet dry. Finally, we headed back down the trail and caught a bus back to the lodge. It was a long day, but we got some beautiful pictures and really enjoyed ourselves.
When we got back to the RV Park we found out that Tosh had had her baby, but it was premature and having trouble breathing. Everyone was quite worried.
Sunday we rested again and washed clothes. I did some writing. We also got to know the people parked on the other side of the driveway from us, Marv and Iris Shaffer. They have a lot at the North Ranch SKP park and told us about their experiences of getting into North Ranch.
Marv is a rockhound, and he had some strange stones sitting outside his rig that had been given to him by one of the other tenants of the RV Park, a man who worked on the roads to North Rim. The rocks looked like fresh dinasour eggs.
On Monday we drove south the 83 miles to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The weather was cooler so we took the dogs along. The fires that had closed the area were no problem, though there was one stretch on the highway where you could see where the fire had jumped the road and headed further east.
Deb and I walked out to Bright Angel Point. The sides of the trail were very precipitous, and Alice refused to go more than a quarter way to the point. It was a great photo opportunity. Take a look at my North Rim photo-log for some pretty spectacular pictures. After resting back at the lodge, we headed back to our camp in Kanab.
Tuesday and Wednesday were days to rest and read. Alice and Deb drove over to an old ranch at Pipe Spring National Monument and had a good time. They were stopped by a big fire in Fredonia on the way back and took a long way around on dirt roads. But they enjoyed their experience.
We took the opportunity to clean up things and wash cars and trucks. They surely needed it. And that was the way we ended the month, but there was one more event in Kanab that was of note. You will have to go to the June log to find out what it was.