Today we reach our final destination of Southern California: Westminster, California, to be specific, near Huntington Beach. We logged just over 4,000 miles on this cross country drive along the southern route with some zig-zagging to make this a most memorial family vacation too.
We stayed overnight at an off-strip hotel in Las Vegas, taking in a few of the better sights and sounds amidst the notoriously edgy city known as “Sin City.” The temperature was kickin’ well past 100 degrees, so the hotel pool provided some (albeit crowded) relief. I lucked into a last-minute slot for a 25-minute massage at the hotel spa, my highlight of the day.
After much deliberation over reading a few mixed reviews along with my desire to try something new, we had supper (an early dinner at 4:00pm) at the Bellagio Buffet. My line-waiting reading material of choice was the iconic Mark Driscoll book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev, but the short wait only afforded me a Driscoll one-liner. (cf. a Facebook fan club: Mark Driscoll is my homeboy) The most popular item seemed to be the king crab legs (meticulously pre-cut in half lengthwise so you didn’t have to work at digging out the meat), or it may have seemed the most popular b/c those legs visibly hang over most of the buffeters’ plates. Food was very good, though not quite as dazzling as the first time we went a few years ago.
Afterwards, we view more Chihuly glass sculptures in the Bellagio lobby and the dancing water fountain show — so good that Jeremiah wanted to see it twice. Then a stop by The Venetian. And to top off the night, father and son went bowling just before midnight. (The score was unevenly split: Dad 121, Son 49.)
The sleep was passable on a very mushy soft queen bed.
[update] We arrive at our final destination, Rachelle’s parents place, just before 2:00pm local time. The trip odometer reads: 4,072 miles. Video below is a small excerpt of the last leg of our drive.
All of creation speaks of God’s power and beauty, especially at the Grand Canyon. Words cannot fully describe its essence. Even photos are not sufficient to capture the scenery. This place is both deep and wide! Way bigger than big or enormous. 3 highlights among many:
Walking into the Grand Canyon Lodge and seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time has to make everyone of us go WOW!!! From here we hiked over to the Bright Angel Point as well as along Transept Trail.
Going off-road towards Point Sublime in our 4-wheel-drive Xterra simply because we could. It woulda took 2 hours to go 18 miles, but after 5 miles or so, we were still winding through forests without any sneak peeks at the supposedly incredibly sublime view. We didn’t want to spend 4 hours+ in the Xterra for this round trip, because that’s what we’ve been doing for 3,500+ miles already, so we turned it around.
Point Imperial makes the Grand Canyon much more grander. The viewpoint spans way past the 180 degree panorama, and at its furthest point you can see 80 miles out. After this lookout, seeing smaller slices of the Grand Canyon was a little less satisfying.
The anticipation of seeing something new and spectacular energized me to be a morning person for a day yesterday, even though I’m not known as the outdoorsy hikey campy kind of guy (though the walking part, casual hiking, I’m enjoying more now). Much more could be said about the journey to Grand Canyon North Rim, which is only open from May to October, and supposedly only 10% of Grand Canyon visitors see the North Rim. Most visitors (90%+) go to the South Rim where there are more amenities and more people; probably way better for people watching, but who comes out here for that?
There’s lots of information all over the map about the Grand canyon, but it is hard to find the essential information. If you only had a day (like we did), my recommendation would be to see the North Rim: stay at Jacob Lake Inn (there’s a gas station here; but if you’re a long-term planner type, get a 1-year-advance reservation at Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge). Start at the Grand Canyon Lodge and get the glimpse of Grand Canyon through the big picture windows while sitting in the leather sofa. Walk over to Bright Angel Point (30 minutes round trip). Go 4-wheeling to Point Sublime. Drive over to see Point Imperial. Return to Jacob Lake Inn and enjoy a thick milk shake and homemade cookies. Sing praise to God along with all creation.
After a 9-hour driving day, we pull into Jacob Lake Inn, where we’ll stay for the next 2 nights. We left downtown Santa Fe after a 3-crepe breakfast at 8:00am, and get here just after 5:00pm. (It’s actually 4:00pm local time, because this part of Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time.) A mostly boring drive was intermittently interrupted by incredible vast open space framed with water-etched cliffs. Along the way we saw yellow cautions signs for deer, horse, and cow. One road-side stand offered Indian Tacos and another Buffalo Jerky.
We stopped for a quick lunch at KFC in Tuba City about 2:00pm. I paused longer to pick something out to order because the menu board was too busy and cluttered. Even Jeremiah exclaimed, “I can’t find the Kid’s Meal!”
Similar to KFC’s sibling Yum Brand franchise restaurants: Taco Bell, Long John Silver, A & W, and Pizza Hut, their menu boards offer too many options as if splattered by Jackson Pollack. I like the much cleaner menu boards of a Chipotle, Potbelly, Wendy’s or even McDonald’s. We have eaten once at Wendy’s on this trip, and have thus far avoided McDonald’s.
I thought we could maximize and cram one more thing in today, and drive the hour to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park so that we could catch the sunset tonight, but I was out-voted. So we’ll be staying around the Inn and resting for tomorrow’s day hike.
For those of you keeping score at home, the Xterra trip odometer says 3,361 miles. [ We’re way out in the sticks, so no cell phone coverage, no mobile Internet; I found this Linksys signal in the nicer Lodge part of the Jacob Lake Inn campus, but there’s no lobby to sit in nor an outlet to plug into, so I’m crouched in the hallway to make this post. What a person goes through to keep people updated. 🙂 ]
We pull into Santa Fe soon after noon, after gaining an hour for crossing into Mountain Time. Santa Fe is known as “the city different” and a “center of the arts”, the city name is translated as “holy faith”, and for a visual artist like my dear wife Rachelle, this visual beauty wonderland has no equal. So the first thing we do is drop off Rachelle along the Canyon Road art galleries for 5 hours of uninterrupted visual art feasting.
Vibrant colors dot the city just as they do the sunset:
Travel tip for Santa Fe tourists searching for where to stay: instead of picking a franchise hotel chain along Cerrillos Road, we found 2 lovely & affordable places downtown Santa Fe (yes, walking distance to the Plaza!): dancing ground of the sun and Camas De Santa Fe. We’re staying at Camas, with free WiFi, and love it!! (and rates were super low via CheapTickets.com) [note: granted these 2 have mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, but if you want a top-rated inn on the same block, go with The Madeleine]
Itâ€™s been a nearly perfect day on the road. It rained in Dallas for 5 straight days but now weâ€™re driving Route 66 in gentle sunshine. The weatherâ€™s been great so far on our trip, not too hot but we might be baking in the stretch before us thruâ€™ NM, AZ and NV. Just stopped in Clinton, OK at the Route 66 Museum and cranked up the volume on our â€œRoute 66â€ song off the Cars soundtrack to go along with the landscape. Compared with being cooped up in suburbia, the open road before us seems a glorious freedom.
Psalm 119: 41, 45 (The Message)
Let your love, God, shape my life
with salvation, exactly as you promised; …
And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces
as I look for your truth and your wisdom;
Weâ€™re heading to Amarillo to eat juicy steaks at the Big Texan restaurant.
Spent a couple hours in Oklahoma City on the emotional ends of the spectrum. The Oklahoma City National Memoral and Museum was sublime and terrible. One forgets how horrific this act of violence was pre-9/11. I didnâ€™t remember that so many children died (19). The memorial is beautifully designed and conducive to reflection and memory.
Walking just a few blocks south we went to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art to view the largest collection of Chihuly glass sculptures and installations. If youâ€™re out in Ok. City, this is not to be missed! The breathtaking swirls of colors, shapes and forms was pure joy, about the same feeling from viewing The Gates by Christo in New York Cityâ€™s Central Park in February 2005. Since we just saw the movie Ratatouille last night, I told Jeremiah that when Remy the rat describes his love of food, this is what great tastes would look like: an explosion of Chihuly glass!