Leaving Las Vegas

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.

edging along the North Rim of Grand Canyon

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. view from North Rim
  • 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.towards Point Sublime
  • 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.Point Imperial

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.

I can’t find the Kid’s Meal!

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. 🙂 ]

hey hey Santa Fe

art gallery in Santa Fe 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:

Santa Fe sunset Santa Fe sunset draws a crowd

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]

dancing ground of the sun Camas De Santa Fe

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

It’s been a nearly perfect day on the road. It rained in Dallas for 5 straight days but now we’re driving Route 66 in gentle sunshine. The weather’s been great so far on our trip, not too hot but we might be baking in the stretch before us thru’ NM, AZ and NV. Just stopped in Clinton, OK at the Route 66 Museum and cranked up the volume on our “Route 66” 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;

We’re heading to Amarillo to eat juicy steaks at the Big Texan restaurant.

at the Big Texan

Recommendation: read the Lonely Planet’s Road Trip Route 66 (that work gave me.)

Colors of the Day: The Black and White on the Route 66 sign

on the road again

We’ve just left Plano proper, and driving north on I-35 to Oklahoma City for lunch. We stopped by Starbucks this morning for our morning fuel: Rachelle was feeling like something different but reverted to the usual tall almond latte, Jeremiah with a vanilla milk, and DJ with his current drink du jour: iced grande Americano in a venti cup [more room for half & half, less cost, less caffeine, less spillability.]

morning Starbucks run

This morning’s Starbucks run is courtesy of a gift card from Rachelle’s previous workplace. Rachelle is driving this morning so that DJ can be blogging. Yes folks, Rachelle is still the effervescent morning person!

Tonight’s destination: Big Texan in Amarillo. This is the notoriously famous restaurant that serves a 72 oz. steak that they’ll give it to you free if you can eat it all with sides in 1 hour or less. I’m not attempting that (thought I have finished a 50 oz. bone-in steak at Trail Dust in Dallas once). But we will eat there tonight and hopefully snag a photo of the main stage — a platform with a table and clock for those who attempt the 72 oz. steak in an hour challenge.

More Collages. Ate sushi.

Here’s my Saturday collage from Memphis and Sunday’s collage based on the Mosaic Church in Little Rock logo. These are pretty straightforward collages designed mostly in the car.

Collage 6 Memphis

Collage 7 Mosaic

We’re taking a break until Saturday while we stay parked in Dallas.

[update] Last night, we had a sushi fest with our hosts — yes, homemade sushi rolled by DJ and Rachelle. One of those side benefits of hosting strangers/friends at your home, as long as those strangers know how to roll sushi. 🙂 Finger food and food art all rolled in one! Delicious! See all 4 sushi eating photos.

sushi fest

first Desi radio station in the USA

During my morning commute into the office, I’m channel-surfing the FM dial, and came across a distinctly sounding radio station at 104.9 FM — playing Bollywood style music and morning call-in trivia questions that related to American Indian subculture. It’s called Radio Salaam Namaste. They’ve been broadcasting since March 2006 and they’re streaming the radio station online via web too; so whether you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex or on the Internet, listen in to this future sound of the global village!

Fingers, Nailclipper and a Gluestick

Yesterday we were hanging out at Urban Grounds in Avondale Estates, GA and since I didn’t have a pair of scissors, I just made do. Part of the adventure of being a collage artist is keeping your eyes wide open and gathering what’s around. There’s nothing like a coffee shop to discover interesting finds and we had visited the Georgia Aquarium and Coke Museum gift shop earlier in the day. Having no scissors, I tore apart all my items, dug around our X-terra for a stray glue stick and used my fingernail clipper as art tool. I tore out the cardboard strip from the bottom of my Coke tote bag and threaded the handle through the collage. It was very satisfying to make something completely out of found objects. However, if I hadn’t found a glue stick in the car, any ideas of what to use as a binding agent? Any creative ideas of what to use from a coffee shop as glue? (the thought occurred to me that I could order a dozen sticky buns and scrape off the frosting and use it as glue, but that was going to be too much). Here’s the end result:

Collage of the Day 5

P.S. The Color of the Day (friday) was Coca-Cola Red

Rackin’ up the State Tally

Part of the joy of this trip is rackin’ up our state tally, or you can call it “measurable outcomes” if that pushes your button. According to my rules, your feet have to touch state ground, so just driving through without making a pit stop or sitting on an airport tarmac doesn’t count. Though Dj travels more these days, he lived a fairly deprived childhood and didn’t go anywhere so I still beat him at 34 states :).  I originally wanted to drive through the middle of America, via Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, etc. so I could tally up more, but alas we’re doing the Southern route we’ve mostly done before.

 For Jeremiah, he is quickly adding more states. He just hit #19 today, TN. Both of us are going to add AR tomorrow. Here’s his state tally roughly in chronological order:

1. NC (born in Raleigh, 1997)

2. CA

3. VA

4. MD

5. DE

6. PA

7. NJ

8. NY

9. NM

10. CO

11. AZ

12. TX

13. IL

14. HI

 Since beginning this trip:

15. SC

16. GA

17. AL

18. MS

19. TN