April 16th, 2017 – Grand Canyon Colorado River Rafting – Arizona

Day 2 of the trip put Don’s new waterproof camera to the test.  It was a beautiful sunny day (which is good because the water was 52 degrees) and they went through about a dozen class 6 and 7 (out of 10) rapids.   Don took some great movies of them going through the rapids.  Unfortunately, we cannot load those, so if you want to see the movies of the rapids you will have to visit us.

The 7th picture shows one of the stops for the day.  In the foreground is a hot spring where you can get nice and warm and them jump off the rock in the background into the cold river.  Brandon is in the left corner of the raft preparing to get another soaking.  A second stop involved a walk (a climb up a rope and hanging ladder) to a grotto containing Travertine Falls (pictures 13 – 14).  As you can see from the pictures, the view of the Grand Canyon from the river is outstanding.

Another night on a beach with a great dinner – shrimp appetizer, NY strip steak and brownies.









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April 15th, 2017 – Grand Canyon Colorado River Rafting – Arizona

Brandon and Don took multiple modes of transportation to get to the river.  It started with a 6 AM bus to Boulder airport.  Then a 45 minute flight to the rim of Grand Canyon.  They took the scenic route and got beautiful views of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead (2nd picture).  The 3rd picture shows their first view of the Colorado River.   Brandon was smiling when he came off the plane because they safely landed at Bar 10 Ranch.

This trip company is the cadillac of companies – no hiking into the canyon. A quick 7 minute helicopter ride took them into the canyon to the river where they got their first view of the J Rig rafts.  It took several helicopter trips to get everyone down and they were on the river around noon.  The views were already spectacular and after a lunch stop (and a happy Brandon because his cigarettes were dry), they continued down the river to their camping spot for the night – a beach that changes from trip to trip depending on how much rain there has been.

They had to pitch their own tents, so Don was the one smiling when everything was set up successfully and they had time for a small hike.  After a dinner of meatball appetizers, spaghetti with meat sauce and chocolate cake, they turned in.









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April 14th, 2017 – Las Vegas – Nevada

Don and our oldest son Brandon started their Grand Canyon rafting adventure (more about that later) in Las Vegas.  Leslie did not go because although she would have loved the rafting and the scenery, the whole 3 days with outdoor toilets and bathing in the river was not her cup of tea.

The day started early with Leslie driving them to the airport at 4 am. Brandon and Don spent the day walking from the Stratosphere to the Luxor and back, walking in and out of the casinos.  Don walked 28,000 steps and called it a night.  Brandon stayed longer and ended up with 40,000 steps.  Leslie is sure that there was more done than walking, but what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.





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April 8th & 9th – Arizona Swim Masters State Championship – Goodyear, Arizona

It was a lovely two days for a swim meet.  Sunny and in the 70s both days.  Leslie aged up this year (meaning she moved into a different category) and due to the competition in the new age group, she had to change her strategy.  She swam long distance races  (1650 yards and 1000 yards) for the first time because fewer people do those races.  Don was her lap counter for these long races and was very encouraging when she came in for her turns.

All in all she swam in 16 events and had 4 PRs, so she was happy and felt like she deserved the Five Guys burger and fries.  The Saddlebrooke Masters team won for the 5th year in a row which is always fun.




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March 22nd – 26th, 2017 – Kansas City – Missouri

We went t0 Kansas City to see our youngest son Matthew and his girlfriend Nora.  It was the first time we got to see their house.  They have done a great job decorating it and it looks great.  We spent a good deal of time in Matthew’s man cave watching the University of South Carolina (and other teams) play basketball which was a lot of fun.  This after he got his new 65″ tv (because the 50″ was too small) which we helped him set up.

We ate a lot of good food.  We went to Slap’s barbecue for delicious ribs and Rusty Horse Tavern where Leslie was in love with the onion straws.  We went to a cooking flash demo and learned how to make Albondigas (Spanish meatballs) and Romesco sauce.  Of course we had to get some beer.  One place we stopped, Brewery Emperial, did not have your average bar food – lots of duck and fancy dishes.   We also went to Up Down which had all kinds of pinball and video games.  It was 2 for 1 token day.  Don was a pinball wizard at that price.






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March 13th, 2017 – Picacho Peak State Park – Tucson, Arizona

Well, we bought a new RV and had to take it somewhere to test everything.  We went to nearby Picacho Peak State Park for a one night trip.   We had no idea there was so much history here.  The unique shape of the 1,500-foot Picacho Peak has been used as a landmark by travelers since prehistoric times. One of the first recordings was in the 1700’s by the Anza Expedition as it passed through the area.

In 1848, the Mormon Battalion constructed a wagon road through Picacho Pass. The forty-niners on their way to California used this road.  In the late 1850’s the Butterfield Overland Stage was carrying passengers through this area. Picacho Peak’s most noted historic event occurred on April 15, 1862, when Confederate and Union scouting parties met in the Battle of Picacho Pass during the Civil War. This was the largest Civil War clash to take place in Arizona.

We did not get to stay long enough, so we will have to go back, but we are happy to report that everything was working on the RV.





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February 26th, 2017 – La Fiesta de los Vaqueros – Tucson, Arizona

We made our annual trip with our friends to La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (The Party of the Cowboys).  The rodeo is a big thing around here – kids get off of school for 2 days to attend the parade and festivities.  This year was the 92nd year for the rodeo.  We went to the finals for the first time and were there early enough to catch the junior rodeo (first six pictures).  The kids that were in the finals were amazing.  In case you are wondering, the 2nd picture is a 4 year old riding a sheep.   None of the kids riding the sheep made it for very long, but it was a lot of fun to watch.

Since we were at the finals we got to see some of the top cowboys in the world.  Some of them made it look so easy, but top cowboys or not, they still struggled to stay on the bulls.  Leslie managed to need a nature break during the calf roping (she cannot stand to see the baby cows wrestled to the ground).  Due to the crowds that were there since it was the finals, she missed the entire event.








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February 16th, 2017 – Death Valley National Park – California

Our last hike in the park was Golden Canyon.  It was a beautiful walk up a wash with many little side canyons to explore.  We needed bread crumbs to leave behind us to make sure we did not get lost in all the twists and turns of the side canyons so we only went so far.  Next time we will come prepared to stay longer and explore all the beautiful side canyons.  The 5th picture shows the Red Cathedral.  We will definitely be back to the park as there is so much beauty left for us to explore.

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February 15th, 2017 – Death Valley National Park – California

There was so much to write on the last blog that the story of the name of the valley had to be moved to this blog.  So here it is.  The California Gold Rush brought the first people of European descent known to visit the immediate area. In December 1849, two groups of California Gold Country-bound white travelers with perhaps 100 wagons total stumbled into Death Valley after getting lost on what they thought was a shortcut off the Old Spanish Trail.  Called the Bennett-Arcane Party, they were unable to find a pass out of the valley for weeks; they were able to find fresh water at various springs in the area, but were forced to eat several of their oxen to survive.  After abandoning their wagons, they eventually were able to hike out of the valley. Just after leaving the valley, one of the women in the group turned and said, “Goodbye Death Valley,” giving the valley they endured its name.

The first two pictures are of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.  If they look familiar, it might be because they used this area to film the first Star Wars movie when R2D2 leaves C3P0 after their pod crashes on Tatooine.  We did not have time to hike in there, but we enjoyed the view.  Why did we not have time you might ask?  We had a flat tire on the rental car the night before and had an afternoon appointment in Pahrump, Nevada (an hour and 15 minutes one way) to get it replaced.

The next 8 pictures are from Mosaic Canyon.  The first picture shows the beginning of the canyon which is all marble.  Absolutely beautiful.  The in and out hike is all uphill on the way in which led to better and better views.  The last 2 pictures are from the ghost town Rhyolite  — a one time  booming town of 15,000 where they mined rhyolite.  The Goodwill Open Air Museum is there and we got to see a sculpture called the “Rhyolite Last Supper” which was completed in 1985 by Poland-born Belgian sculptor Albert Szukalski.  He used residents from nearby Bodie to make it, putting plaster-soaked burlap on live models until the plaster dried enough to stand on its own.  The other statue is called “Tribute to Shorty Harris”, a prospector whose discovery in 1904 led to a gold rush.

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February 13th & 14th, 2017 – Death Valley National Park – California

Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest and lowest national park in the United States which is why we went in February.  It occupies an interface zone between the arid Great Basin and Mojave deserts  and contains a diverse desert environment of salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains.

We took a boardwalk walk to see the salt creek pupfish.  This is the only place this species exists and they are out of hibernation at this time of year.  As you can see from the pictures, the park is quite diverse with beautiful views everywhere you look.  The 9th – 12th pictures are of the sunrise at Zabriskie point.  The sun did not come up until 6:30, so it was doable for Leslie.  We were there for an hour watching the color of the mountains and rock change as the sun came up behind us.  Very nice.

The next pictures (except for the last one) are from Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.  Well to be truthful, the lowest point (4 feet lower) is about 25 miles away and dangerous to get to, so they put the sign here.   The site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of “bad water” next to the road in a sink;  the accumulated salts of the surrounding basin make it undrinkable, thus giving it the name.   Adjacent to the pool, where water is not always present at the surface, repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into hexagonal honeycomb shapes.

In 1881, the Eagle Borax Works became Death Valley’s first commercial borax operation. William Tell Coleman built the Harmony Borax Works plant and began to process ore in late 1883, continuing until 1888.  This mining and smelting company produced borax to make soap and for industrial uses.  The end product was shipped out of the valley 165 miles to the Mojave railhead in 10-ton-capacity wagons pulled by “twenty-mule teams” that were actually teams of 18 mules and two horses each.  The last picture shows the wagons that they pulled — two containers of Borax and the last one a 120,000 gallon water tank.  The teams averaged two miles an hour and required about 30 days to complete a round trip.


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