To Las Vegas and back 2016 – Day 17

Early evening in Shamock, Texas
Early evening in Shamrock, Texas

Today was a day to just drive homeward. We didn’t stop to see anything interesting, though I’m sure we came close to many interesting sites. Our drive heading east was not the reverse of our drive towards Las Vegas.

We were more interested in getting home as expeditiously as possible, so we got back on Interstate 40. We left Arizona and stayed on I-40 all the way through New Mexico. Instead of driving through the Oklahoma panhandle as we did on the way out, we drove through the Texas panhandle going home. For those of you who are not familiar with U.S. geography, the Oklahoma panhandle runs east/west. The Texas panhandle runs north/south. Why is the term panhandle used? I don’t know if panhandle is a term used outside of the U.S. When used in a geographical sense it means a thin (relative term) strip of land projecting from one area into another area. Think of it as a peninsula surrounded by land rather than water. If you look at a map of Oklahoma, it becomes more obvious.

At any rate, we crossed the Texas panhandle and stopped in Shamrock, Texas for the night. I took this picture from across the street from the restaurant we chose, Big Vern’s Steakhouse, for dinner. The food was good. I had one observation that evening. I remembered that most of the men I saw in Oklahoma and New Mexico were wearing cowboy hats; but in Texas they all wore baseball caps. What’s the significance? I don’t know.

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To Las Vegas and back 2016 – Day 16

Rough Rider monument
Rough Rider monument

We started the morning in Prescott by partaking of the free continental breakfast offered by the motel. At least it was in an area where there was plenty of sunlight. As we ate, we (maybe just I) couldn’t help overhearing a group of four young people having a conversation while they ate. They appeared to be part of a wedding party; perhaps including the bride and groom. I honestly wasn’t interested in what they were saying until one of the women started talking about her father, and how embarrassed she was by his pride in using old-fashioned (her term) software to create digital art.Her fiancee/husband chimed in to say how her father was also using outdated software in his work. And they all laughed. I really wanted to say something snide about them, loud enough for them to hear, but it was a beautiful morning and I played it cool.

We drove into the historic downtown area of Prescott and parked on the courthouse square. I was impressed by the number of beautiful sculptures on the grounds. The sculpture in this picture memorializes the Rough Riders from the Spanish American war. The sculptor was Solon Borglum, brother of Gutzon Borglum who designed Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

From Prescott we retraced our drive, north this time, to catch the 89A turnoff to Sedona. Once we got on 89A we settled in for a scenic drive. Cindy, of course, was driving because there were mountains on the route. In fact, we pulled off the highway to follow a road, much of it dirt, to the top of Mingus Mountain. It was worth it! There is a launch point for hang gliders on the mountain, and we walked over to it to look down. It is not a sport that I will be taking up. Do you ever go up to such a precipice and have the urge to step off? No? Me neither. Plummeting to my death is not how I want to go out.

We dawdled for a bit, and then got back into the car to return to 89A. The two lane dirt road was just as spectacular going down as it was going up. (Ignore your phone, Cindy! Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.)

A ways further north we came to Jerome, Arizona, where the main street is a series of switchbacks going through town. I thought it would be a good place to visit; Cindy felt otherwise. So on we went towards Sedona.

Let me take a short break from the travel narration to update you on what was happening back in Lafayette. You may remember that the insurance claims adjuster told us that there was a $5,000 limit on our Gold Star homeowners policy. When we heard that, we had immediately called home to stop the work being done on our house. The estimate we had been given for the cleanup was $10,000 and we at least wanted to pause things until we got home. When we called we were told that $6,100 of work had already been done. Fine. But stop work now.

Well at some point, I don’t recall when, we got another call from the adjuster saying that after reviewing our policy she realized that there could be more available for repair and replacement. We both breathed sighs of relief and gladness brightened our hearts. Now we were torn between taking our time to enjoy the trip and rushing home to see how bad things were. 

Back to the travel narrative: As we got to Sedona we were both impressed by the beauty of the red rock formations. Trina had also been to Sedona and thought that it would be a good place for a family vacation. She thought that she and her family, Michelle and Lee and Wyatt, and Cindy an I should spend a week there some time. As we drove through the town on the main thoroughfare we started looking for a place to eat lunch. Nothing we saw amid the tourist attractions and jeep tour establishments caught our fancy. We decided to stop at one of the visitor centers to get a better idea of what was available. Let me say here that I am used to a city or town having a visitor center, but there seemed to be a number of them in Sedona. We stopped at one that was in a small outdoor mall. The lady working in there was quite helpful. She gave us maps on which she marked some sights that she thought we might like. She also gave us coupons for discounted meals. And she really wanted us to go to the office of a timeshare where other discounts could be had. We smiled politely, thanked her, and went in search of a nearby restaurant where we would get a 10% discount. We did some window shopping as we walked to the restaurant. The stores seemed pretty upscale; but everything in Sedona seemed pretty upscale. We found the restaurant and had a good lunch. The bill, with the discount, came to $10 more than we had paid for dinner in Prescott. I wasn’t sure that it was that good of a lunch.

Taking the map that we had been given, we set out in our car to drive to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The Chapel is built in the rocks above the town, and is well worth seeing. I stayed busy taking photos of the surroundings while Cindy went inside to explore the gift shop. She emerged and took some photos of her own before we got back in the car and headed back towards the center of town. As we drove we talked things over and decided tat we didn’t really want to spend the night in Sedona. Speaking only for myself, I found all of the upscale glitzy touristy stuff built around all of the natural beauty a bit off-putting. Cindy and I both felt the pull of the road back towards home inviting.

So we got back on 89A and headed north through more natural beauty. We were anxious to make some time so when we reached Interstate 40 we got on and headed east. As we passed through Winslow, Arizona I wanted t get off and find the corner mentioned in the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy,” but Cindy wanted to put more miles behind us. Lost opportunities. Finally, when we reached Holbrook, Arizona, we stopped for  room and dinner. Cindy pulled into a gas station, and I as I pumped gas she did an online search for a reasonably priced motel. She chose one that was just down the street from us. When we pulled into the court, I could see why it was cheaper than most of the others. It seemed run down to me, but it suited Cindy. I went into the office and got us a room. When we pulled the car down to the room, I saw that the door to the room was open. As I approached the door, a man walked out and said that the room hadn’t been cleaned yet. Could we come back in an hour? I hesitated, but said sure, we could go eat dinner first.

We found a nice Italian restaurant about  mile away and had a good meal. When we returned to the motel we found that the door to the room was still open. I walked into the room and found one man sitting on the bed and another on a stepladder, peering up into a hole that had been cut in the ceiling. The cheap carpet squished under my feet. The guy on the bed turned to me and said “A pipe burst and flooded the room. You should tell the people in the office not to rent this room tonight.” Ya think? Plumbing problems seemed to b following us. I decided that I didn’t want to stay at that motel no matter what room they gave us.I went back to the office and told them I wanted our money back even though they had a policy of no returns after 15 minutes. They evidently had quite a trade in short-term transients. They complied without arguing. I had seen a number of motels near the restaurant where we had eaten, so we drove to one of them. We got their last vacant room. And I was pleased.

To Las Vegas and back 2016 – Day 15

At the Lake Meade Recreation Area
At the Lake Meade Recreation Area

This was our last day in Las Vegas for this year. Well, it was our last half day because we were getting anxious to start homeward. We weren’t so anxious that we were eager to say goodbye to Lee, Michelle and Wyatt. That is never easy. If only they were unlikable; but such is not the case

We packed the car and checked out of the time share. From there we drove again to Lee and Michelle’ s home. We chatted a bit and then followed them to a restaurant for a farewell meal. As usual, the food was very good.

Lee and Michelle encouraged us to visit Sedona, Arizona on our trek home. I had wanted to visit Prescott, Arizona and they weren’t very far apart. I have to admit that I had no interest in Prescott until I watched the movie Junior Bonner and the location caught my fancy. I know it sounds silly, but there you are.

Eventually, however, we did have to get on the road, so we said our goodbyes and hit the road for Arizona. Shortly after we crossed the state line, we came to the Lake Meade Recreation Area. We stopped there to explore the gift shop and to use the facilities. We both bought fluorescent lime green T-shirts. Then it was back on the road. where we headed east and south towards Sedona and Prescott.

Cindy had decided that we should spend the night in Sedona, and perhaps all of the next day based on the kid’s recommendation. (So technically they aren’t kids, they are adults, but to me they will always be kids.) It started to sound like Prescott was going to be crossed off of our itinerary. Ah well, it was only a whim of mine.

As I drove south on Highway 89, watching to turn onto Highway 89A, Cindy started an online search for motels in Sedona. I have to admit that the prices she was finding were a bit stiffer than we expected. We discussed our options and decided to drive south of the turnoff and go on into Prescott for the night. It wasn’t that much farther, and I would get to see Prescott.

Once the decision was made and we were approaching Prescott, Cindy proceeded to fall asleep. I made it to Prescott without any problem, but left to my own navigation, I got lost within the city limits. I drove around, saw some lovely scenery, and then gave up and found a place to park while I searched for a motel on my smart phone and employed the GPS navigation. Cindy awoke and helped me find the motel. We checked in as dusk was approaching.

I asked the clerk for a recommendation for a place to eat dinner. He told us about a place, Bill’s Grill, about a mile from the motel. The place didn’t look like much from the outside, but the food was some of the best we had while on the road. Cindy had the Teriyaki Chicken with Jasmine Rice, and I had The Baked Hoki in an almond/parsley sauce with the Jasmine Rice. Both were excellent and the price was reasonable.

We returned to the motel, watched a little TV, and had a good night’s sleep.

To Las Vegas and back 2016 – Day 8

Wyatt
Wyatt

Let me start with a confession. After we got the news about our plumbing disaster, I stopped making notes for future blog posts. Oh, I made a couple on the trip home, but not while we were in Las Vegas. I didn’t even take any pictures for the first few days of our week in Sin City. Most of the pictures I did take were of our youngest grandson, Wyatt. This is the first picture I took after our arrival three days earlier. End of confession.

You may be wondering why we didn’t immediately turn around and drive back to Indiana. That’s a legitimate question. First, Trina and JR were back there, looking after our interests; and Trina encouraged us to stay and try to enjoy our vacation. Second, Cindy had gone online with her laptop the previous evening and had filed our claim with the homeowners insurance policy that we had been paying into for twenty-six years. She had also called our Insurance Agent and left a voice mail asking her to call us back immediately. Third, we wanted to see Wyatt who would be celebrating his third birthday while we were in Las Vegas. And fourth, we had friends flying in from Indiana who would be staying at the time share with us. What could we do in Indiana? So we drove to Las Vegas.

The drive from Kingman, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada takes approximately ninety minutes. We were both anxious to get on the road, so we skipped the free continental breakfast, and instead got coffee and breakfast sandwiches from a fast food place. Cindy even let me drive, so I was very careful through the somewhat mountainous stretches.

Cindy called ahead to our time share to find out when we could check in. They told her 4 p.m., which meant we would be waiting a long time once we got to Vegas. So we called Lee and he told us to come to his house to wait. That was good.

When we arrived, Wyatt was taking a nap and would be down for quite some time…we were not to disturb him. So we sat and talked to Lee about what was going on back in Indiana and in Las Vegas. Mary and George’s flight from Indiana would be coming in later in the day. After a while I started to get antsy, and though it was only 2 p.m., I decided to leave Cindy with Lee and drive to the time share to see if we could get in earlier. When I got there, I was happy to learn that we could get in immediately. So I checked in, got key cards for all of us, drove to our building, and unpacked the car. It felt good to be doing something useful.

The rest of the day is pretty much a blur to me. I drove back to Lee and Michelle’s. Later Cindy and I went to the airport to pick up Mary and George. We took them to the timeshare, and we went out to eat. That’s about it for my memory.

To Las Vegas and back 2016 – Day 7

One view from Th Grand Canyon
One view from Th Grand Canyon

Day seven dawned and we skipped the free continental breakfast in favor of getting an earlier start. We got coffee and a breakfast sandwich on the road and drove to Farmington, NM where we stopped at a real restaurant and ordered a real breakfast with unscrambled eggs (over easy, thank you). And then it was back on the road, heading west through the New Mexico landscape to Shiprock, New Mexico.

From the city you can see the geological formation from which the town got its name. The 1700 foot rock sticking out of the surrounding plain is actually an eroded volcanic plume. We have driven past the plume a few times. but have never left the paved highway to drive closer. Perhaps next time we will drive down the dirt road to get a closer view.

From Shiprock we drove west, across the Arizona state line, and headed through increasingly beautiful countryside towards the Grand Canyon. I had wanted to stop at the Grand Canyon last year on our drive home, but Cindy’s attitude at the time was “been there, done that.” Well, for me the fact that I had been there twenty-five years earlier on our honeymoon didn’t matter. A place of beauty is worth revisiting in my book. Also, I had never seen the canyon from the North Rim. But it was not to be.

This year, however, Cindy decided that we should see the canyon again. When we reached the fork in the road where you had to decide right for North Rim or left for South Rim, Cindy chose south…or left in her case. The left turn took us closer to our route to Las Vegas, so I understood, but in actuality she thought we were going towards the rim we hadn’t seen. Cindy often says, “Don’t talk to me about north, south, east or west; just tell me left or right or forwards or back. It was obviously my mistake.

We were about ten miles from the entrance to the park when Cindy got a phone call. The call was from her friend who was going to our house to water the plants in our absence. She told us that the ground floor of our house was covered with water. The water had also gone down the stairs to the basement, and through the floor boards into the basement. And thus, the nightmare portion of our vacation began.

Cindy called Trina and asked her to go to our house to look things over, since she is often the voice of reason. There was little we could do from Arizona, so we continued on into the park where we marveled at the beauty and took many pictures, though I doubt if we smiled. I found myself getting testy with some of the younger tourists who were climbing out onto areas where they should not have been. Where is a park ranger when you need one?

Here in the midwest we often see warning signage proclaiming a cattle crossing or deer crossing. Out west you see those signs along with elk crossing, and occasionally bear crossing. In the park, for the first time in our lives we saw one that warned of possible mountain lion crossing. We joked about it, especially when we saw in people in an open-topped convertible driving into that area. Cindy opined that they were crazy to be inviting a mountain lion to pounce. She was only half joking.

We cut our visit short and headed south towards Williams, Arizona where we planned on getting a room for the night. As we were leaving the park, the third instance of not getting a picture of an animal occurred. Without a picture to study, I’m not sure if we saw a female elk or a horse. Call it bad eyesight on my part.

It started raining on the drive south. That is not a metaphor about what happened in our house. At one point Cindy looked out of the car’s side window and saw a rainbow. She pulled over to take a picture of it. It was still too early for me to take the rainbow as a sign for our future.

We arrived in Williams and drove around a bit, searching for a hotel. Even the cheap-o motels had prices saltier than we had been paying for much nicer accomodations. We stopped at a hotel to get something to eat in their restaurant and perhaps get a room. While we were eating Cindy started getting more phone calls about our home’s deluge. Trina called to say that she and her husband, JR, were moving as much furniture as they could from the house and into the garage. Further, they had contacted a company to come out to start the clean-up process. JR was upset because he said their commercials guaranteed they would be there in three minutes and it had already been longer than that.

The people back home were starting to speculate that our problems were caused by a storm that had hit Lafayette on Friday night. It seemed that our problem was caused by the city’s sewer system that couldn’t handle the downpour, and it had backed up into our house though the ground floor bathroom.

By the time those phone calls were completed, neither Cindy nor I had any appetite left. I couldn’t tell you what I ordered, let alone if it was any good. Also, we were both wide awake, so we decided to drive on to Kingman, Arizona to find a place to sleep. Kingman was about an hour and a half from where we were via an Interstate highway. We didn’t care that it was an Interstate because it was dark and we wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful sights off-road.

We got coffee at McDonald’s and hit the road. Next stop, Kingman.

To Las Vegas and back 2016 – Day 6

Looking into the crater of Capulin Volcano
Looking into the crater of Capulin Volcano

We started the day in Clayton, New Mexico by having the free continental breakfast at the motel. Big deal. occasionally one of these breakfasts will take into account the fact that some of us need to stay sugar-free, and by extension low on carbohydrate intake. But even when they have a slightly extended menu, you can only stomach just so many scrambled eggs and pieces of sausage. I am not an easy person to please.

From Clayton we drove north and west to the Capulin Volcano National Monument. Since Cindy had previously purchased a senior citizen pass to national parks, monuments, etc., our admission was free. When we stopped at the visitor center we found that this was also a popular site for bird watching. From the top of the mountain you can see the vast field of volcanoes. I’m told that there are at least one hundred other volcanoes visible from the Capulin Volcano. I didn’t attempt to count them. I hadn’t realized that there was so much volcanic activity in New Mexico’s past.

This volcano was another place where Cindy insisted on driving. If she is not in control of the car while in mountainous terrain, she panics. Now, I’m not crazy about riding with her when she drives in the mountains either, but I don’t argue with her. Come to think about it, I’m not crazy about riding in the car with her in city traffic either. It is probably an age thing on my part…I’m eager to stay alive a few more years. But, what can you do.

As we were driving down from the summit we received a call from Trina, who told us that she had taken another plumber to our house to get a second opinion on the situation with our pipes. He concurred in part with the first plumber, though he didn’t think the indoor piping was in as dire a need of replacement. Since we hadn’t yet received the estimate for the needed work from the first plumber, we decided that this newer plumber could go ahead and do the work. It would be done the following week. Things were looking up.

From Capulin Volcano we continued west. Near Raton, New Mexico we drove past the NRA Whittington Center. Given our feelings about gun use in our country, we decided to keep driving rather than stop and visit the friendly gift shop. We didn’t feel that any of our friends needed an AK-47. We’re funny that way.

As we drove further west we passed land upon which cattle were grazing. Along with the cattle were more animals that I was unable to photograph. They were at a distance, but I believed they were antelope and Cindy agreed. Upon reflection, however, I think they might have been mule deer. I’m just not sure.

So we continued on until we stopped in Chama, New Mexico to spend the night. And other than the beauty of the area, I don’t recall anything of significance about Chama.

To Las Vegas and back 2016 – Day 5

Statue in Enid, Oklahoma
Statue in Enid, Oklahoma

When we got up that morning we decided to partake of the motel’s free continental breakfast.Once more I wondered about the breakfast habits of people on the continent. Perhaps I should research continental breakfasts. Would I learn that it was  just some sort of mocking ritual about our independence from European overlords that has gone horribly wrong? Or is it, perhaps, just a sign that I need more caffeine in my system? Hmmm.

We packed the car and set out north and west to drive through the Oklahoma panhandle. As we were leaving Stillwater however, I was struck by the messages of two billboards on opposite sides of the street. The one on the left read THERE IS EVIDENCE OF GOD. On the right side of the road was a sign that read CATFISH HEAVEN. I wasn’t sure if I should take these signs as one message, dueling messages, a coincidence, or a cosmic joke. I’ll let you decide for yourself.

I took today’s picture as we paused at a stop light in Enid, Oklahoma.  I didn’t have time to jump out of the car and see the title of the statue, but a subsequent search on Google has told me that it is called The Homesteaders and it is by Harold T Holden. It honors the people who took part in the Cherokee Strip land rush, I’m not sure how members of the Cherokee nation feel about this statue.

Heading further west we reached Guymon, Oklahoma. And now I must make a confession, I know that there is something blog worthy about Guymon, but I can’t remember what it is. I also failed to make a note of it in my notebook because I felt that it was so memorable that I would never forget. I forgot.

So on we went until we left Oklahoma; a goal that we had. We stopped in Clayton, New Mexico for the night. After we got a motel room we drove into downtown Clayton to eat in the restaurant in the Eklund Hotel. Much to our delight, there was an open mike for singers. We didn’t plan to sing, but there were others there with their guitars. The fellow who was on the stage when we arrived was singing songs by Steve Goodman and John Prine. Those two came out of the Chicago folk music scene which was big when I was a younger man, and I still frequently listen to their albums. Cindy and I were very happy. He went on to sing a few more songs and then turned the mike over to a tall, skinny man who wore a cowboy hat, boots, and a vest over his cowboy shirt. He sang cowboy songs that he had written. Based on his performance, I would say that cowboys are a morose lot. We left when we finished our meals. Mine had been the worst chicken fried steak that I have ever encountered. But the entertainment was good.