Bryce and Red Canyon, Utah

21 Sep

Utah is fast becoming our favorite place to experience the amazing natural wonders of America.  Maybe it’s the red rock or the serene beauty or the freshness of the air.  Maybe it’s everything.  Anywhere USA would find it hard to compete with a vista like this:

IMG_0452Or, for that matter, this:

IMG_0483Just a few panorama photos I took with my iPhone while hiking the past two days.  Today, we experienced maybe the best hike of our lives.  It was a moderate 5 mile hike in Red Canyon and the photo directly above is taken from the peak of our climb.  The weather was perfect in the low 70’s with a nice breeze and we only saw one other person.  Not to mention we were also with our friends Rick and Gaye Meade and their Lab Dakota.  Here’s a shot of the girls and Dakota:

IMG_0480When we finished the hike, the girls were amazed to find we’d spent 4 hours on the trail.  Given the variety of terrain and changing skyline there was always a new vista to absorb.



Our hike at Bryce Canyon happened to afford perfect light for some dazzling photos:

IMG_0462A photographer’s dream to be sure and it was not lost on us.

IMG_0457This little hoodoo below on the left is representative of what makes Bryce Canyon so special.  These sandstone formations are ever changing.  The park rangers are constantly cleaning up from when some of the little fellows topple over!

IMG_0472We did our best on the trails to mimic the hoodoos and stay in an upright position and I’m happy to report we were successful!


If a birthday falls in Las Vegas does anyone notice?

21 Aug

54.  Wow, time marches on and no man can slow it down.  You’ve gotta live life to the fullest because there’s no guarantees, right?  Heck, you could be taken out by a drone tomorrow!  If the word Full figures prominently in your life, you need to come to Vegas.  Everything here is big, bright, and boisterous.  They have the best entertainers, the best shows, the best food and it’s all so easy.  One of the funnest things that’s happened to JoJami and I recently is her sister and brother in law, Janeen and Michael moved to Las Vegas.  I’ve been the lucky recipient of a week-long birthday blowout that’s left me slightly dazed but with a grin on my face to be sure!  And when you can get your day started with a little backyard yoga what’s not to like?

securedownload-1A view like that in California would set you back a few million (and then just imagine the property taxes!).  No wonder so many folks are hightailing it out of CA to the low tax state of Nevada.  But I digress into political banter which is just an exercise in frustration these days.  Back to the good stuff:  here’s the great community pool we enjoy each afternoon.

securedownloadIt never hurts to be escorted by a couple of lovely ladies to the Casino restaurants:

securedownload-1We had a great meal at the Wynn Encore hotel last night.  Our waiter, Michael (pronounced Michelle) was Lebanese but we thought he was French.  He was a super nice fellow and did a beautiful job serving us.  He even took this picture:

securedownloadAfter our meal we visited the roulette table and I promptly lost $50 on red.  That’s enough gambling for me!  Let’s face it, Vegas wasn’t built with gambler’s winnings – unless you consider the casino magnates to be gamblers.  Which brings me to the title question of this post:  is a birthday celebration in Vegas redundant?  The short answer is: to Vegas, yes, a birthday is redundant.  To the birthday boy, certainly not.  Thanks for a week to remember – at least until next August!

Jesus Christ, Superstar from coast to coast

7 May

It’s been a long time since my last post some 7 months ago.  Mostly, we’ve been in Sarasota at our “winter” home.  Since the thaw has arrived up north, we now have pavement under our tires as we begin another trek down to the Florida Keys.  This time we’re traveling with our friends Christine and Bob Whitefield.  Our first stop is Key Largo and specifically  John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The park actually encompasses some 70 square nautical miles of the Atlantic Ocean and includes the only living coral reef in the continental US.  In addition to the beautiful living coral and many species of exotic fish like this,



you might come across some other interesting sights below the Azure Seas of the Tropical Keys.  I was a bit shocked when I saw this religious memorial only a few meters from the reef:


The last time I had invoked the name of our Lord and Savior (not in vain but as an exclamatory exultation) we were on the Holiest Road in America all the way over on the Left Coast.  Now, here we are at the southeastern tip of the good ol’ U.S. of A. and once again he’s turning up.  Maybe someone’s trying to tell me something?


“It’s beautiful out!”

9 Oct

“It’s Beautiful Out!!”  “Then leave it out!”  That’s my father-in-law’s, James Best (, standard response whenever I mention a beautiful day!

When you see a view like this, you expect to see John Wayne.  Well, we left him back in Moab at Red Cliffs Lodge:

Monument Valley, AZ is actually a Navajo reservation.  It’s considered sacred ground and there’s only one hike you can take without a Navajo guide.

So, we took the wildcat trail which circumnavigates the “West Mitten.”

And here’s a picture of the west mitten with the east mitten just to its right:

Here’s the “Three Sisters.”

And here’s the “Totem Pole.”  The other things to the left have a name, too, but I can’t remember….

Monument Valley is worth a stop if you’re visiting the Grand Canyon.  A Navajo jeep tour will show you all the amazing features in about 2 hours and there’s really no place quite like it.  It was nice to have my hiking partner along for the trek!

Ballooning in Moab

3 Oct

The last time we ballooned was 1987 in Napa Valley, Ca.  Here in Moab, our driver that took us to the lift-off site told us he doesn’t make a whole lot of money but then he doesn’t have to live where we live.  Having spent a week in Moab, I think I know what he means.  This is how it looks as the flight begins:

And here’s a shot of our pilot keeping the balloon aloft:

It was a perfect, clear morning and we were up with the moon.

We went as high as 2,000 feet and then came down over a canyon, moving with the wind at about 7 mph, we dropped down in:

We saw hawks flying below looking for their breakfast and some great views:

Ironically, our pilot, Lou, flew his first balloon in Napa.  He’s a great promoter of the sport and we all had an awesome time.  Here’s Lou and his dog, Lodi:

Just out the backdoor in Moab

30 Sep

Rough dirt roads, mountains and 4-wheel drive are the sweet ingredients for men who have the lust of perilous exploration running through their veins.  Actually, we were all trying to avoid taking the morning trash to the dumpster – but it sounds good.  Bob, Rick and I set off in Bob’s Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland (with chrome wheels) onto the road less traveled, winding our way up to this view:

As we enjoyed the scenery, we heard 3 birds flying behind us.  It was so quiet up there you could hear the air pass through the feathers of their wings.  We continued our trek and came to an obstruction on the roadway:

Once we got the Jeep through, our next stop was Dead Horse Point State Park.  It reminded me of the Grand Canyon – but smaller.

The next day, we did some exploring of the many petroglyphs in the area.  Here’s an example:

We also got up close and personal with some dinosaur prints – they’re a little bigger than my hand.

It’s amazing that these historic artifacts are on hillsides and canyon walls totally exposed.  Glad to see that the public, for the most part, respect this heritage and strive to maintain it for the future.

Corona Arch in Moab, UT

29 Sep

Cyndi said “Google the Moab arch that a plane flew through.”  Turns out it’s Corona arch:

Gaye, Rick, JoJami and I made the 1.5 mile hike through a winding canyon to this natural wonder.  As we approached, I noticed a rope hanging from the top:

Once he was on the ground, I asked him how he climbed up there: “On the outside edge; it was hairy – I wouldn’t do it again.”   I was happy to see that our adventurous youth still have some sensibilities……

We’re looking for nature but keep finding bronze….

29 Sep

We left Yellowstone and traveled down to Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park.  Beautiful drive with the leaves turning in the canyons.  Unfortunately, smoke from wildfires has followed us since northern Montana and it’s so dense here we can barely see the Tetons.  We did visit the town of Jackson and I spent a moment of contemplation with Albert Einstein:

JoJami had a close encounter with a moose:

From Jackson, we traveled to Salt Lake City and spent four days catching up on business and getting Mormon-fied.  We were able to attend the 4,200th or so consecutive broadcast of the Tabernacle’s Music and the Spoken Word sunday morning program.  That’s right, this is the longest running, uninterrupted live broadcast in the world – commencing July 15, 1929.  Here’s how it looked inside the 147 year old Tabernacle Auditorium:

It’s a must-see if you’re ever in Salt Lake and I challenge you to leave with dry eyes.

Some Tabernacle Choir Fun Facts:

– the choir consists of 360 volunteer singers

– the orchestra consists of 110 volunteer musicians

– to sing in the choir, you must be at least 25 but no older than 60

– singers can participate for a maximum of 20 years

– you must live within 100 miles of Salt Lake cause you’re going to practice lots, and perform about 75 times annually

After the choir, we went in search of the “Pioneer Family” bronze sculpture that our friends Cyndi & Joe told us to look for – we found it!

We’re both thankful we didn’t have to pull a wood cart from Iowa City all the way to Salt Lake like this family did!


19 Sep

This is the grandaddy of all National Parks.  When President Grant designated this amazing wilderness in 1872, there was no such thing as a National Park anywhere.  Yellowstone is the first and arguably the greatest of all natural conservation areas.  Due to the volcano beneath the park, it’s boundaries encompass more active thermal features (over 10,000) than the rest of the entire world.

In a span of less than 1 hour, we saw a coyote hunting on a hillside, bison grazing in the grasslands and a black bear napping along the banks of the Yellowstone River.  The scenery at Yellowstone’s “grand canyon” is magnificent:

While some national parks overwhelm with vistas and the sheer size of features, there is a quiet serenity at Yellowstone:

And the Old Faithful Inn is an architectural knockout:

Here are some thermal features near the Old Faithful Inn:

And here’s Old Faithful doing it’s thing!

A Hike at Yellowstone’s Edge

15 Sep

I know, I know.  Enough of these hikes, already!  Well folks, this is what the West and the National Parks are all about.  You have to get out there and commune with nature.  It’s a wonderful, wild world so why not explore it?  That’s just what we did along the bluffs overlooking the Yellowstone River near Emigrant, MT.  It was just a leisurely walk across the street from Yellowstone’s Edge RV Park.  As JoJami, Bob and I walked along the gravel road, Bob suddenly exclaimed “there’s a rattler!”  This is Bob when he’s calm, cool and collected:

And this is the rattle snake he brushed by within about 3 feet:

We saw and heard his rattler as he coiled and raised his head to strike.  I took the picture and we left the snake so he could search for more appropriate food.  As we continued on, we marveled at how we hadn’t thought much about snakes, especially after our bear spray training session in Glacier National Park!  But, we’re not in Wilmington, DE or Appleton, WI.  We’re in the Wild West!