Hollinger-Langmuir Family News

Family Vacation to Arizona+, 3/30-4/8

Friday, March 30

It was a relatively normal morning, getting Katelyn to school at her regularly early time (with a bagel stop along the way) and Haley at her regular time an hour later. Then some hectic running around with shopping, last-minute cleanup, and finishing packing, while Val was (as usual –Val) madly trying to finish work before we left. Haley got out of school at 12:15, so she had a leisurely time. Katelyn had a note to get out at 1:30 but seemed to have forgotten about it, so couldn’t leave! Marilyn had to call the school to OK her leaving, and she made it home by 1:50. The taxi came 5 minutes late at 2:25, and we had quite a time getting all of our bags and us loaded, but we made it, and got to the airport without incident.

At check-in, instead of just using the automated kiosk, we had to talk to an agent, which took a while, and then she had some kind of a hard time with getting us set. But it all worked out, and after a quick stop for water we got to the gate just as boarding was starting. Our seats were fine, the flight left on time, and we were on our way! (pictures from the journey)

We landed in Las Vegas, picked up our lovely Cadillac Escalade from Hertz, and watched in awe as Val got everything to fit! We took a leisurely (aka “in a traffic jam”) ride up the strip, and settled in at our hotel at the other end, the Stratosphere. We then hopped back in the car to go to Caesar’s Palace to have dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. We got to walk through the Forum Shops, and then had a wait to get a table. Even though we were tired and hungry at least we got to wait near the lovely fountain and fish tanks.

Dinner was tasty (well, except for Katelyn’s food, which she didn’t care for), although since the portions were large, as usual, it was hard to not have leftovers since our rooms had no refrigerators. It was a late night, but we still decided to go up in the Stratosphere Tower when we got back to the hotel. Well, Kathie, who is afraid of heights, didn’t, and Val, who planned on going, decided not to at the last minute (so she could finish her work stuff and enjoy vacation –Val). So Marilyn, Katelyn, and Haley went and saw the awesome view.

We finally got to bed a bit before midnight.

Saturday, March 31

Haley and Marilyn were the only ones up for breakfast. Deciding to forgo the $20 champagne buffet, they ate at Roxy’s Diner in the restaurant. Also this morning Kathie and the kids had a room with a view of the “tower jump” thrill ride and enjoyed watching people zip past the window.  We ended up leaving the hotel around noon-ish, stopped at Trader Joe’s for snacks, CVS for random stuff, pulled over nearby for a quick “park ‘n’ grab” geocache, and then started our first long driving day.

We headed out of town (the wrong way with respect to our main goal) to go see Hoover Dam, which was awesome! We loved the Art Deco features and were impressed by the scale of it. Val and Kathie were amused at a group of well-dressed southern women, including the bride, who apparently escaped from a wedding party. It seemed to be after the wedding, but it was odd that they were there and the groom was nowhere in sight.

Then we headed back through Las Vegas and north towards Utah, our route to Lake Powell. (pictures of the journey) We drove and drove and ended up stopping in St. George for dinner, where we found a wonderful Mongolian BBQ place. We topped up with gas, then drove and drove some more, arriving at the entrance to Zion National Park so late that we didn’t even have to pay the entrance fee. Unfortunately this meant it was almost dark, and got darker and darker as we drove. So we didn’t get to see much of the park, although the tunnels (the longest of which was over a mile) were fun in the dark.

After the park there was a lot of flat open road. It was very dark. There were many areas with posted deer crossing warnings. Haley was our champion deer spotter. It was slow going because we didn’t want to go too fast in case a deer jumped out. It turns out the only close call was when a kamikaze bunny dashed across the road and Val swerved to avoid it. It was scary, but it worked out. After a quick pit stop at a crossroads restaurant, we continued on our way.
We arrived at the Lake Powell Resort around 9:40, checked in, and tried to get to bed at a decent hour.

Sunday, April 1

(pictures of Lake Powell and our hotel)

Our day started off badly when we found out we couldn’t go out on the speedboat we’d reserved for the day because of high winds on the lake. We had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, and, on recommendation from the waitress, decided to go to Upper Antelope Canyon, which is a “slot canyon”.  Antelope Canyon is on the Navajo Reservation. We paid to get into the Navajo Nation-run park, and then paid extra for the tour. But it was so worth it! After a 10-minute ride in the back of a truck we arrived at the tall, thin, entrance to the slot canyon. Our guide, Kim, was great, taking us into each chamber and showing us the best spots for pictures and pointing out formations that looked like a bear, a dolphin, George Washington, Batman, and more. The tour took about an hour.  More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antelope_Canyon.

Afterwards we headed into Page for lunch. On our way into town we passed “church row”, with at least 8 churches all in a row! Then we ate at Fiesta Mexicana, where the wait was long but the food was great. Marilyn had a huge raspberry margarita, after which Val was jokingly calling her “Mrs. Drunk and Disorderly”, and the kids were amused. We followed that up with getting 3 geocaches (Note: it’s worth mentioning that Haley actually spotted the cache in 2 of these 3 instances. She has a talent for this!) and checking out the campground in Wahweap. Then Marilyn took the kids to the beach. It was really cold and windy, but they wanted to at least put their feet in the water.  Meanwhile Kathie took in some of the basketball game (Stanford vs Baylor in the women’s Final Four). None of us were hungry for dinner very early so we ended up hanging out in the lounge at the resort, then ordering food there. After that Katelyn had homework to do, so had to be in the lodge, the only place that had internet service.

Monday, April 2

We packed up and headed out around 11. We stopped at the Glen Canyon Dam, the whole reason Lake Powell and the town of Page exist. Its construction is similar to Hoover Dam, so it was interesting making comparisons. After a brief stopover at Sonic Burger (for which Kathie had been seeing TV ads but had never visited) and the trading post just outside of town (where we unaccountably failed to buy any of the hot cherry Kool-aid pickles) we continued on our journey to Kayenta.

We planned to stop at the Navajo Monument to see the Anasazi (or Betatakin) ruins. (pictures of the journey there) We decided to have an adventure and take a back road there, so we had a 9 mile journey on a dirt road. At one point a local man came barreling out of a side road in a small sedan and turned onto the road without stopping, headed right for us. He noticed us at the last minute and swerved away. Whew!

The short (one-mile round-trip) hike along the edge of the canyon to the viewpoint was really cold (about 45 degrees) and windy.  The altitude helped make it feel even colder. The view at the end of the trail was of 800-year-old cliff dwellings, so it was worth it, but it was tough. The hike back up the hill was also a bit tough, but it was all really pretty.

We arrived at the Hampton Inn in Kayenta late in the afternoon, and got settled. The rooms had a strange smell so the assistant manager, Kevin, came up with an air cleaning ozone machine. That helped. He also brought up a refrigerator and microwave which made eating easier because we could have leftovers.

We checked online (free internet in the rooms, yay!) and found a local Chinese restaurant that got a couple of decent reviews, so we checked it out. It was “fast food” – all pre-prepared, but didn’t look bad so we gave it a try. It really wasn’t very good. Some things were tasteless and much of it was too spicy. Also, they were all out of hot tea.  (What the…?)  Afterwards Haley and Marilyn both had upset stomachs. Katelyn didn’t eat much so she had a snack from the restaurant later in the evening.  Another thing we did that evening was laundry! A bonus of this hotel was its onsite laundry, which we had relied on using in packing for the trip. Kathie was the laundry queen, waiting tirelessly through the wash cycle followed by the double dryer cycle needed to get everything dry.

Tuesday, April 3

Our first stop after the complimentary breakfast was the visitor center at Monument Valley. We didn’t actually go in, though, because we planned on the back country tour the next day and were only going to get info, but it cost $5 per person just to go into the park, and it’s a per-entry fee (as opposed to per week like the Grand Canyon). So we got some info from the (somewhat surly) gate attendant and drove on. (pictures of our journey) Our next stop was at Mexican Hat, where we took a lot of funny pictures “wearing” the Mexican Hat Rock, and Val and the girls climbed around on the rocks to find a geocache. We also found another cache a short distance away.

We stopped to eat in Bluff. At the very end of town we found the appropriately named Twin Rock Café, nestled under an amazing rock formation. The food was awesome! We had our first Navajo fry bread of the trip. We also tried ash bread, which is apparently the same as fry bread only grilled instead of fried. While it was tasty, we all agreed the fried version was better. Big surprise! – not.  (Note: Val says this was by far the best fry bread of the trip, yum, worth eating wheat for!)

After lunch we drove on, heading for Four Corners.  (pictures of our journey) Before going too far we stopped for one more cache at the Hobbs Wash historical marker. This was funny because we drove past it, turned around to go back to it, and drove past it again! After another U turn we finally found the turnout, made the grab (again, Haley saw it first), and took a picture of a cute lizard before continuing on.

After the cache we continued on to Four Corners. On the route we selected we went from Utah (where we’d been since Mexican Hat) to Colorado (on the Ute reservation) to New Mexico (right at the entrance to Four Corners). Marilyn had been to the monument when her family drove across country back in April of 1971. It’s changed since then. It’s easy to take turns taking pictures at the actual corner, and there are native shops all around. We took many pictures and bought several souvenirs, then headed back to the hotel.

NOTE: The monument actually moved last year. It turns out that the location for the old one was incorrect, so they finally got around to moving it.

(pictures of the journey back to Kayenta)

Wednesday, April 4

We had a bit of a family (Katelyn) meltdown around the fact that she has homework to do over the holiday. We resolved it, at least enough so that we could head off to Monument Valley for the backcountry tour. We had a wonderful tour guide, Aaron, who had his 1-year-old daughter with him because the normal caregivers, the aunts, were at the hospital with his wife’s mother. She was adorable, so we got an extra bonus of being able to play with her during the tour.

This tour was (almost) as good as Val and Marilyn remembered their original tour being back in 2004. Monument Valley is such an amazing and spiritual place, showing off the power of the earth and the evolution of the geology of the area. It’s also a sacred space for the Navajos, and it just feels that way.

We finished off the tour with a stop at the visitors’ center, and headed back to our hotel. Katelyn got room service so she could eat while doing her homework, and the others went to the restaurant in the hotel. The rest of the evening was spent on more laundry and working on logistics for leaving in the morning.

Thursday, April 5

We got going early because we had a long driving day. (pictures of our journey) Marilyn ate breakfast at the buffet, Kathie ate in the room, and the others ate in the car. We stopped for gas in Tuba City, got a virtual geocache in Cameron and another (regular, which Haley saw first again) in the Kaibab National Forest. Then on to the Grand Canyon! We stopped at several of the lookouts, mailed some postcards, stopped for a few things at the general store, and headed south. We took the less-traveled road to Flagstaff, getting another geocache along the way. We decided to just snack for lunch so we could have a nice dinner in Sedona. We got to Sedona around 6pm, checked in to our rooms at the Hampton Inn, and went into town. The two shops we wanted to go to, the Harley Davidson shop and the Jerky shop, were both closed, so we decided to visit them in the morning. We had a great dinner at Oaxaca in town, although the bill was confusing (they added on a tip, but didn’t total).

After coming back to the hotel, Val did some computer work, she and Kathie separately watched TV, and Katelyn did homework while Haley and Marilyn went swimming. It was really cold in the pool but Haley and the other 3 kids swimming didn’t seem to mind. Marilyn spent the whole time in the hot tub, while the kids just went back and forth between the pool and hot tub. Haley wanted to stay out a long time, but Marilyn made her come in earlier than she wanted. It was just as well; she was exhausted after her shower and went right to bed.

Friday, April 6

We got going by 10, and stopped in town when the shops were supposed to open. We split up: Kathie and Val went to the Harley Davidson shop, Katelyn went to get herself and Marilyn some coffee, and Haley and Marilyn went to the jerky shop. We rendezvoused back at the car and headed out of town. (pictures of our journey)

We stopped for a geocache that took a while (where Val had to cross a wide stream by clambering on a series of rocks), and a shorter one (found by Haley), where we realized we were near the Montezuma Well, which Val and Marilyn had visited on their last trip. So we took a bit of a detour, but it was worth it to see the well, read the information about the area and the ancient people, get an Earthcache, and see the ruins there.

After Montezuma Well we hit the road again for the long drive to Ed & Reggie’s. We were so used to wilderness and desert roads that it was a shock to be on the freeway, especially when we hit rush hour traffic in Phoenix. We had a bit of a long pit stop for Katelyn, who had an upset stomach, but thankfully it passed. We arrived almost an hour later than we’d hoped, but we still had a wonderful visit. (pictures from our visit)  They were quite thoughtful with snacks to meet all of our dietary needs, and we just had fun.

Then on to the airport. (pictures of our journey) We’d left ourselves lots of time, and it was all pretty low stress because we didn’t hit the traffic we’d been worried about, so we got there in plenty of time. We turned in the car, caught the shuttle to the airport, had almost no line at security, and were at the gate an hour before the flight. Although it was a small plane (a CRJ-200), it was relatively comfortable. The descent was a bit rough, but the flight was otherwise uneventful.

The San Luis Obispo airport is very small. Baggage claim was one small carousel right as we got into the terminal, and the car rental office was right around the corner. We had a van reserved, but benefited from the fact that the previous renters hadn’t turned in; we ended up getting a free upgrade to a Ford Explorer. Turns out it had more seats AND more baggage room than the Escalade! We headed through SLO but realized we were hungry. So we ended up at a Taco Bell right near the freeway at 10:15 at night. Not the best food choice, but it’s what was open, and was the least expensive meal of the trip!

We arrived at our hotel, the La Serena Inn in Morro Bay, after 11. The office was closed but they’d left a note on the door, and our room keys in a lock box keyed to the last 4 digits of Marilyn’s phone number, so our arrival was smooth. We got to the rooms (very nice!) and went to bed.

Saturday, April 7

(pictures from Morro Bay)

We let people sleep in. Kathie and Marilyn, the early morning people, took Haley to breakfast in the hotel just before it closed, then left the kids to just hang out and rest. Val dropped them off at Susan and Joel’s for a visit, and went geocaching, finding 5 caches, including her 250th! She came back to pick them up at about 1:20, and got back to the hotel to change. Jane had already arrived (Val recognized her car), so when we got up to the room Val called her and she came down to meet us all.

We left for the Embarcadero Grill, where the Seder was to be held, at around 2:15, a little late since we were trying to locate Haley’s new hair clips. We walked since it was only about 4 blocks from our hotel. We arrived and helped with the setup (mostly with advice and reminders). Jane had brought the charoses (two different kinds, traditional and Sephardic), and it had to be put out. Everybody arrived close to on time, and the Seder started around 3:45.

It was our traditional family Seder, with just a few modifications. Susan had separated the service into two books, one before the meal and one after, which was a new approach. Everyone participated, as usual. Jonathan’s second son, Lex, read the 4 questions. His oldest son, Maxim, is starting to learn a little Hebrew, so he read the beginning of the 4 questions in Hebrew, and Haley read the rest. It was really sweet. Jane wanted a chorus of Dayenu when we came to that part of the service, and many of us were only too happy to oblige.

Other than the charoses and the gefilte fish made by Jerry (Joel’s brother), the restaurant made all of the food, using the recipes Susan gave them for things they didn’t already know how to make. We had hard boiled eggs, soup, salad with gefilte fish, and the main course of salmon, chicken, tofu, tsimmus, broccoli, and potato kugel. It all worked out well except the matzo balls, which were hard and chalky. The consensus seemed to be that they hadn’t used enough eggs. Oh, and there weren’t any pickles and olives because there was a miscommunication: the restaurant thought Susan was bringing them, and Susan thought they were being provided. Susan provided all of the desserts, including macaroons, rugalach, chocolate-covered matzo, and jelly candies.

We did our family tradition of having the kids hide the Afikomen and then “looking for it”. We (of course) failed to find it, so had to ransom it back at $2 per child. Haley tried hard to bargain for more, but Susan was firm.

We left the restaurant at about 8 and walked back from the hotel. Kathie and the kids stayed at the hotel, and Val, Marilyn, and Jane went to Susan’s to hang out, which they did until about 10:30. Then back to the hotel to pack.

Sunday, April 8

Kathie and the girls went down to the Embarcadero to look at shops in the morning while Val spent a little time with Jane before she left. At about 10:30 we headed over to Susan’s for brunch. The kids weren’t that hungry because it turns out they’d had a bit of breakfast with Kathie, but they were happy for the macaroons and chocolate-covered matzo as a dessert.

We left just before noon and headed to the airport, where we arrived without incident. (pictures from the journey home)  But then when we were checking in we found out our plane was delayed by an hour. Then an hour and a half. Then we found out they’d had to get a new plane due to an equipment failure, so there was more of a delay. Overall we were delayed a little over 3 hours. Then they didn’t post where our baggage was coming in when we arrived so we were delayed another 20+ minutes. Instead of getting home around 3:00 we were home closer to 7:00. A difficult end to the trip, but we still had a great time.

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