Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's Thursday, and there's a sold-out Wilco concert going on tonight at the University PAC that I'm totally going to miss. Crap.

I figured I'd make a quick update and clue some of you in to the plans I've been making lately. It seems that Europe is not going to work out after all. I planned as best I could, but in the end I realized that I just won't have enough money saved up to survive there for 3 whole months. When I checked with the airline last week to see if I could change my tickets in any fashion (maybe get an earlier return flight) they gave me the bad news: non-refundable and non-changeable tickets. So, other plans are in the works (and I will make it back to Europe someday soon).

As most of you know, I've been struggling lately to figure out the when, where and how of getting back to college for a different degree and a different life path. The answers to those questions have presented themselves over the past week, and I'm finally going for it. The University of Arizona (where Garrett is currently working on his PhD) offers a great BFA/MFA program for VISCOM (graphic design) and photography. After speaking with an advisor in the School of Art, it seems likely that after living here for a year I will be able to file for a domicile affidavit and pay in-state tuition prices to get a 2nd bachelors degree in the aforementioned field(s). So, that's the new plan. No more Portland (at least not for now). I've made so many new friends here in such a short time, and I love this place. Arizona is truly beautiful and really does have a lot to offer. My plan is to begin school not this fall, but the next (although I may take some not-for-credit classes next semester for fun). After I begin the program, it will take 3 years to complete it. I'm not in any rush, and I'm really looking forward to all of the general art courses I'll have to take for the degree. I can't help but feel like this is what I should have been doing with my life all along, but at least I'm finding this out now and not much, much later.

I should also mention that while leaving Tulsa and all of my friends and family is going to be tough, I'm really glad to be getting out of Oklahoma and going someplace new where I'll have a chance to start over again with a clean slate. Life hasn't been that easy for me over the past 4 years, and I think a lot of my problems have to do with the fact that I've felt stifled and held back by old, painful memories. I've been waiting for this opportunity for so long, and I can hardly believe that the time for action is finally here. At the end of July, I'll be coming home to pack my things, spend some quality time with everyone and say my good-byes. Of course, I hope you'll all come visit me in Arizona at some point. You're most certainly welcome to. :)


Now, on to a less "heavy" topic...

WHY does Polaroid film have to leave us? While I was in SF, Devin gave me his grandfather's old Polaroid CoolCam. I ordered two (very expensive) packs of film for it online from Twenty exposures for almost $50? Ridiculous. But let me tell you, when I loaded that film into the camera, closed the door and heard the gears click and move inside, I fell in love.

(first image - Oh, I'm so giddy!)

Now I'm kicking myself for not getting into Polaroid photography long ago, before they decided to cease production of this beloved film. Why oh WHY?? Anyway, I'm going to purchase an inexpensive SX-70 One-step cam from eBay (see image below), try to obtain one pack of SX-70 film (apparently the 600 film cannot be manipulated, and I'd like to mess around with that), and come up with a cool project that I can frame and hang up on the wall in my new place. It'll be worth the cost when everything is said and done.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I'm sorry to those of you that regularly keep up with my travels...I've been being a bit of a bum lately where the writing is concerned. I left San Francisco a couple of days ago to come back to Tucson for a week and a half before returning to the LA/San Diego area. I'm not sure what prompted my 3-days-early departure, but I think it had something to do with the weather. After spending so much time in Tucson where it's constantly hot and sunny, the clouds and dreary cold of SF started to get to me. That, and I'm beginning to get worn out from all of this traveling. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be doing all of this, but the tired feeling still creeps in at times.

Anyway, a quick recap of the last days in SF...

Last Saturday, Devin and I went into the city for another day of sightseeing, except that this time we drove his Volvo instead of taking the BART. We crossed over the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate, then drove up into the Marin Headlands for a different view of the city. There are a lot of abandoned bunkers and batteries in the area that were originally built to keep bad guys out of the bay, and they certainly make for an interesting photo op. Most are covered in graffiti and now simply serve as a weird place to wander around or walk your dog in. If we'd had more time, I would have loved to stay longer, but it was foggy and cold and we were trying to make it into Sausalito for lunch.

After munching on some yummy pizza and tiramisu in Sausalito, we drove back across the Golden Gate, parked, and then walked all the way across to the north side of the bridge and back. It took a couple of hours, but by this time the fog had cleared up and we had nothing but sunshine and puffy white clouds, as well as a clear view of downtown SF.

From there, we drove out to the Haight-Ashbury area and found some fun stores to look around in for a couple of hours. We went back into Amoeba records, and I opted to buy a t-shirt since I couldn't easily transport a record in a hot car all the way back to Tulsa.

(A crazy-cute sign along Haight street that I couldn't resist getting a picture with. Yeah, I chose the [vegan] taco...I think it's healthier than the fries.)

There weren't many other major events that happened for the remainder of my stay. I'd like to say that I went out on my own on the days that Devin was at work at the bike shop and did more sightseeing, but I did not. I just had an odd feeling for a large part of my stay that didn't really go away until I left. There were many nights spent just lounging around listening to Logan, Katie and Devin play music (which was totally awesome - they're all such talented musicians).

(Devin on the left, Logan on the right)

Katie and I did go out together once on the day before I left. She brought me to this crazy place somewhere in Oakland (or was it's hard to tell) that is essentially some person's house that has a backyard dedicated to welcoming people who wish to use their hot tub in the nude. It's the ultimate hippie experience, to be honest, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You enter through a gate (that has a lock code) at the back of the house, and there's just the yard with all of the beautiful foliage, some benches, a dressing room, shower, bathroom and the hot tub. There was even a sweet little Siamese cat wandering around that I played with for awhile. So, the idea is that there's this relaxing place in the middle of the city that's intended for girls (although girls are allowed to bring male guests with them) to use to hang out nude in this hot tub, then just be able to meditate and rest in the wooded area by the patio. No talking is allowed, and the code for the gate isn't supposed to be shared with just anyone. It's strange, but there's a sheet of rules available in the dressing room, and people are expected to abide by them. I guess it's pretty successful, because I do believe the guy who owns the place has had it available and in use for many, many years. I probably wasn't supposed to take these pictures with my phone, but since there aren't any naked people in them, I assume it's acceptable. :)

So, I left SF to drive down to Oceanside 2 days ago. I had the intention of at least staying overnight at Carita's place, but since her mom was in town visiting from Alaska, I opted to just drop in for dinner then finish the 7 hour drive from there to Tucson overnight in the same day. Since I never drink coffee, all it took to keep me awake all night was one large cup. I was actually quite proud of myself once I arrived in Tucson at 4AM. It's good to know that if I have to do such a long drive at some point in the future, I'm actually capable of doing it. :) Nothing really worth mentioning happened on the road trip back here, except that I will say that driving on highway 5 through the middle of Los Angeles between 4 and 6PM is the most frustrating thing EVER. Gross. Don't do it. I wish I had timed things better, but since I didn't I'm simply happy to have survived it without any major mishaps or accidents.

(entering the mountains outside of LA on Hwy 5)

(Some annoying traffic that this picture doesn't do justice to)

(Ahhhh, Pacific coast)

I'll be heading back to San Diego and LA in 1 week, so my next update may not come until then. I hope everyone is doing well!

Friday, June 05, 2009

It's Friday, and I've been here in the SF area for a few days. I've gotten familiar with the area already, been on a couple of short bike rides and made myself at home at Devin's place.

Tuesday afternoon, Devin got off of work at 3. He took me to this really cool place called the Albany Bulb. He brought his guitar along, and I brought my cameras. Check out the link.
When we returned to the studio, Devin cooked up an amazing dinner (he's such a good chef), and then we hung out with his roommates and talked, I listened while they played music, etc.

On Wednesday I rode out to Devin's bike shop again, dropped off my bike (apparently bicycle theft is too big of a deal here to be cocky about locking your bike up almost anywhere), and wandered around some of downtown Berkeley. South of the UC Berkeley campus, there's a great place called Telegraph street that offered a lot of unique and interesting shops to visit. I didn't have my camera with me, but the iPhone did a decent job of recording the non-artistic photos I needed. I found some really great bookstores, and two record stores that made me drool with desire. At the moment I found the aisles where the vinyl records were kept, I wished for a split second that I could be employed, that I could be a responsible, working member of society so I could afford something, ANYTHING. Like, maybe the limited edition Beck ($228) or Ben Folds ($89) sets, the Sigur Ros clear purple vinyl, some Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens...whatever. In the end, I figure it's better that I'm blowing all my non-replenishing savings on this trip, and forgoing the record purchases. It'll be OK. That's what I keep telling myself.

(Telegraph street)

(Yay for records - this is my heaven)

(Some humorous old books at one of the bookstores I visited)

I ran into some hippies as I was walking back to the bike shop. They totally offered me free hugs, and I couldn't really say no. Besides, they didn't smell bad, and a couple of them were pretty cute. So tell me, who's gonna turn down a free hug in San Francisco? From cute, non-smelly hippies? Yeah, you'd do it too.
When I arrived back at the bike shop, Devin put the new tires on my mountain bike. It's really the biggest treat ever. He gave me a super-sweet deal anyway, and I couldn't turn it down. By the time I rode off down the street on my way back to the studio, I was wondering what on earth I had been doing riding on those knobby-as-hell old tires for so many years. I was flying. I mean, there was no effort required. I've been spoiled, and there's no turning back.

(Devin performing surgery on my bike)

When Devin came home from work he made more scrumptious food and then we went to a local indie movie theater to watch "Sin Nombre." It was a very sad story, but was very well done. It was directed by the same guy who did "The Motorcycle Diaries", so if you liked that one, you should go see this.

Thursdays through Saturdays are Devin's days off work, so yesterday we went into the city for the first time since my arrival. It was an extremely full day, and we were pretty sleepy by the time we got back home.

We got into SF at the Embarcadero BART station around noon.

(Riding BART)

We walked through North Beach (the Italian neighborhood of SF) until we arrived at the Rogue Ale House. One of my all-time favorite beers is the Rogue Chocolate Stout, and Devin had never been to their bar, so we decided it would be a good stop for both of us. I tasted a new beer (Mocha Porter - I apparently need to have some sort of chocolate flavoring in my beer), and we (or at least I) got sufficiently tipsy.

From there, we walked down to the pier and had lunch at "The Buena Vista" and then ice cream at the Ghirardelli store. Mmmmm. I had been waiting so long to have one of their ice cream sundaes, and it didn't disappoint.

(Mmmm, chocolate sundae)

After that, we walked back through North Beach into Chinatown, I got bitched at by some lady for taking pictures of her food (those Chinatown chicks are nuts), and then ended up in the SoMA area (where all of the good museums and galleries are).
The first place we went to was the Contemporary Jewish Museum. They had a great exhibit going on called "Jews on Vinyl" as well as one about Jewish theater in Russia during the early 1900's. Marc Chagall was really influential in one of the acting companies, and so there was quite a bit of his artwork to accompany the exhibit. We shared a drink at the cash bar after we finished walking around at the exhibit, then went down the street to the SFMOMA.

I've been wanting to visit one of the MOMA's for a long time now, and the SFMOMA was amazing. They had an exhibit of Ansel Adams' photographs side by side with Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings. Since both artists were such good friends for most of their lives and were inspired by a lot of the same subjects, it was a very cool experience. There was also a collection of Robert Frank's photographs, as well as all of the prints from his book "The Americans." GREAT exhibit. Aside from that, the permanent collection was quite amazing on its own. They had two works by one of my favorite sculptors, Kiki Smith, as well as lots of works by everyone from Klee to Dahli to Kahlo to Rothko to Kandinsky. The list goes on and on. I've posted some of my favorites below for your viewing pleasure. :)

When we left the SFMOMA, it was getting dark outside.

Walking through SoMA at night was wonderful, and freaking cold. After being in Tucson with its frequent 100 degree + highs, San Francisco might as well be another world. There's at least a 60 degree difference between the two places most of the time, it seems. We rode the BART down to the 16th St. Mission stop, got off, had dinner at a small Mexican restaurant, a couple drinks at a local bar called "The Casanova", and dropped by Devin's favorite bookstore before getting back on the train around 11PM and making our way back to Oakland. What a great day.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I arrived in the San Francisco area late yesterday afternoon and I'm a bit sad that I'm away from Tucson (since it kind of became my home away from home over the last month and a half). But, I'm so excited about the possibilities that SF has to offer me during the next couple of weeks!

I spent a large part of last week packing up my things and preparing for my departure. Delphine and I got together for lunch a couple of times towards the end of the week, and since she's moving to Philadelphia around the middle of the month, she was also in the process of packing. Since that's the case, I was the recipient of a lot of stuff she didn't want to lug around Pennsylvania, such as a pair of Doc Martens, a tent, an umbrella, some Brita filters, a purse, and a kick ass coat that she wore when she was in high school in France. That girl has single-handedly given me almost everything I could possibly need to take on a good camping trip. She's amazing.

Anyway, on Friday night we all got together with Garrett's group of friends for dinner at a good sandwich shop / bar on 4th avenue, and I got to say most of my goodbyes. Garrett and I went back to his place to watch a movie that night, fell asleep, then woke up the next morning to do our last hike together.

Sabino Canyon's "Seven Falls" hike was probably the first hike we had discussed doing together, so it was strangely appropriate that it ended up being the most (technically) easy and final hike we did in Tucson. Notice that I say "technically" easy (not generally easy). It ended up being the hardest hike we did, in my opinion. My reasoning behind this is that we ended up going during the hottest part of the day (stupid, STUPID) and I totally got dehydrated and nearly passed out at the end by the falls. The nice thing was that there was actually some running water there, (despite the fact that Tucson is currently in the middle of its dry season), and I could soak my feet and relax for awhile. We ran out of water right at the end of the hike when we got back to the trailhead. I guess we'll know better for next time. :-/

That night, Garrett and I met up with Matt, Sarah and Casey for the "Third Annual Night of New Orleans" at Hotel Congress. They had some great live music going on outside, plus a big table set up where you could get some spicy crawfish and shrimp. Garrett got me a dirty martini with extra olives, and that one drink was enough to put me away for the night and make me eerily giddy and giggly. We all had some good (and stupidly hilarious) conversation. Man, I love martinis. Following the concert, all of us (except for Casey) went down the street to have a late late dinner at this totally cool restaurant called "The Grill." After dinner we parted ways and Garrett and I went home to get some sleep before my big road trip the next day.

I didn't get as early a start as I would have liked on Sunday morning, but since the trip was only 7 hours as opposed to 9, it didn't seem necessary to wake up much before 11. The trip to Santa Monica was fairly uneventful, and I'm glad I chose to drive into town on a Sunday night as opposed to a weekday night. That traffic is insane, and I'm almost certain I'm in no position to navigate an unfamiliar highway in a place as crazy as Los Angeles (especially during rush hour). I stayed with some nice couchsurfers who had moved to the US from Haifa, Israel two years earlier. They were very friendly, and provided me with a good dinner, a hot shower and a cozy bed to sleep in. Couchsurfing is so wonderful.

The next morning, I had to wake up early since my hosts had to make it to work. I hit the road around 10AM and did an even shorter drive on highway 5 to Oakland (6 hours?). Again, the drive was uneventful enough that it doesn't really need any explanation. The only thing I can say is that about 80% of that drive between LA and SF is boring as fuck. I mean, leaving LA is nice (mountains and a couple of lakes), and the last 60 miles before SF are nice (rolling hills, trees, wind farms). Everything in between? Complete shit. Oh well. I feel sorry for people in Bakersfield.



Anyway, I arrived in Oakland around 4:00PM and found my way to Devin's house without too much trouble. And really and truly, it's not a house. It's this large warehouse-type building called "The Dome" and it's the coolest place I've ever stayed at in my life. I'll take some pictures soon. When I arrived Devin was still at work, so one of his roommates let me in. I spent the remainder of the afternoon unpacking and chatting with his friends. I found out that his roommate actually has the same year and model VW as I do, and he's promised to let me drive it sometime before I leave (I miss mine so much).
When Devin got home from work we immediately left for dinner. Some of his friends (Abe, Megan and Tony) picked us up and drove us all to a really nice Indian restaurant in downtown Berkely. We had a nice (and utterly hilarious) conversation, and then they drove us home afterwards. Devin and I stayed up late and attempted t0 watch the movie "Eagle vs. Shark" on the projector screen in his bedroom, but the disc had a scratch (dammit!) that prevented us from completing it. Whatever the case, you should watch it. The parts I saw were so funny, and it has one of the band members from "Flight of the Conchordes" in it.

(the wall by the registers at the Indian restaurant - the black sticker is interesting)

This morning, we woke up and rode our bikes to downtown Berkely where Devin's bike shop is. He's at work until 3, and I'm just enjoying some free Internet and a smoothie and scone here at Yali's coffee. Oh, and I'm getting smooth tires put on my mountain bike today, so I'll have something more like a road bike (I guess I can call it a hybrid) for all the long treks through the streets of San Francisco.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It has been a full two weeks since my last entry. Things have been really busy, but so much fun. Delphine had her commencement two Thursdays ago (the 14th), and I tagged along to take pictures of her and her family. I figured it was the least I could do since they came all the way from France. Besides, getting your PhD is no small task, and deserves lots of celebrating + pictures.

The next day, I hung out on campus for a bit and had lunch with Garrett and some of his friends. I also decided that I needed to splurge at Urban Outfitters and buy a few clothing items, mostly because they were having a sidewalk sale (and who can resist that kind of thing anyway?). That evening, Garrett and I got dressed up (well, dressed up for us, that is) and went to the dollar theater to see “Watchmen.” I can’t believe I waited so long to see it, because it was a pretty awesome movie. I guess I was expecting typical superhero comic book movie fare, but it was so much more than that.

Saturday we woke up around noon and did a short walking tour of downtown Tucson. If I had been wearing the proper shoes we could have done the whole tour, but I was stupid and wore the brand new sandals I had purchased at Urban Outfitters (which severely shortened the distance we could go before my ankles started to hurt). After that, we drove out to the southern side of the city to have some beer and snacks at the Nimbus brewery. I absolutely love going to microbreweries. Arizona seems to have a lot of them.

Around 7, we went over to Delphine’s mentor’s house for a big party to celebrate her graduation. Much drinking, eating and merriment was had by all. They cooked up some pretty amazing food - burgers, potato salad, spinach salad, etc. The best parts by far were the crepes that Delphine and her mother made, along with the French champagne. Nothing makes a cookout better than crepes drenched in Nutella that have been lovingly prepared by a French person. Holy crap, it was yummy.

Sunday was the start of the trip within a trip. Sedona, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas were all on the itinerary.

We got a pretty late start on Sunday. Since we had stayed up late drinking the night before, we didn't start packing until mid-afternoon that day. Luckily, the drive to Sedona from Tucson wasn't that long at all (3 1/2-4 hours) so we got to Sedona right around sunset. Sedona is a crazy place. It was a recommended by a good friend of mine that we stop there. I had never heard of the place until he told me about it, but I'm not really sure why. Supposedly, the city is famous for having the highest number of vortices of "spiraling spiritual energy" in one place. Check out the Sedona Vortex Map. I guess people from all over the world go there to experience the vortices, which is evident by the high number of brochures available at every possible stop along the road advertising spiritual healers and vortex tours.

I hate to make fun, but I found it all to be rather ridiculous. It was all topped off by this old guy whom I asked to take a picture of Garrett and I. He took the picture, then struck up a conversation and asked me to hold his hand. Then he says "do you feel that?" and I'm thinking, "no, but I'll pretend I do if it'll get you to stop holding my hand." He claimed to be a touch healer from the Appalachian Mountains in northeastern Tennessee and said he had cured a girl from a lifelong meth addiction simply by touching her. Well, that's great and all, but I'll keep my beliefs and let him keep his.

Whatever the case, it made for an interesting couple of days just seeing all of the old hippies walking around trying to find twisted trees (evidence that there was a strong spiritual energy present in the area). The funny thing is, we saw lots of twisted trees there and in the Grand Canyon, and I'm pretty sure it's a feature of the tree itself (a Juniper tree) and not the fact that there's some hardcore swirling energy field in the immediate area.

Anyway, Sedona was beautiful, vortices or no vortices. As I said earlier, we arrived around sunset on Sunday evening. We had decided earlier that morning that we'd just look for a hotel to stay at for the night, and that turned out to be a pretty good decision.
SO...Garrett locked the keys in my car accidentally as we were getting ready to pay for our hotel room. We had to call a locksmith (who charged $60 to remove the keys from the car). When the hotel desk clerk found out about our hardship, he decided to be a nice guy and gave us a suite instead of a regular hotel room for the bargain price of $75 for the night.

I mean, we had a fireplace for christsake. Granted, it was fake, but it was a fireplace all the same. We were happy with the way that turned out, to say the least. :) We stayed up late in the room, drank too much wine, watched a movie, and woke up fairly late the next day. At 11AM we checked out of the room and began our tour of beautiful Sedona. We went to the downtown area and walked around to all of the corny little gift shops, took pictures, ate lunch at a small Mexican restaurant that provided us with a great view from the balcony, then hit the highway for a scenic drive to Flagstaff. I didn't feel the "healing energy" of a vortex, but I did have a wonderful time (and a tasty enchilada).

Flagstaff is a freaking cool place. Really freaking cool. The drive that day was short (about 30 minutes) and we arrived in the late afternoon at our couchsurfers' home just in time to grab one of the many bicycles they had sitting around outside and ride to the grocery store for dinner supplies. Scott and Amanda (our hosts) were so kind and generous. Scott let me ride his fixed gear bicycle (my first time on one of those things) to the store, and then he cooked all of us an amazing Mexican dinner complete with guacamole and this funky sweet cucumber limeade drink. After dinner we all sat around in the living room and listened to him and some of his buddies jam on their instruments (everything from a guitar to an accordion to a banjo to a didgeridoo) while we relaxed with glasses of chardonnay.

Our sleeping quarters were in the garage (modified to be a mini skate park of sorts for his teenage son) on our inflatable mattress. Sounds uncomfortable, but the garage had quite a few amenities, including an old skool Atari arcade racing game. Oh yeah - I played that thing. :)

We got up the next morning and (sad to go) packed up our belongings and ate lunch at a nice small cafe downtown before making our way north to the Grand Canyon.


Day 1
The Grand Canyon is called grand for a reason. It's big. Really, really big. And it's beautiful. More beautiful than I could ever hope to convey to you just by showing you my pictures. I'm a good photographer, but there's no picture in the world that can do that place justice. So that having been said: GO THERE. Just do it. I promise you won't be disappointed. We arrived there in the mid-afternoon, just in time to see the sun starting to fall behind the low clouds. The weather wasn't perfect, but the little bits of light streaming through the clouds gave us a cool view of the some of the canyon's features. I was completely speechless at first. You drive into the park and the first (and most popular) stop is Mather Point. You can see the land completely drop off right in front of you from the front seat of your car. Wow. It was GORGEOUS. And WIDE. And, well, GRAND. My god, nothing could have prepared me for that first view.

So, I took pictures for a good long while, we found some dinner, checked into getting a backcountry camping permit (a whole other story altogether), and set up camp at the Desert View campground which was located on the easternmost side of the South Rim drive (about 25 miles from GC Village and the only place in the park that had camping sites available in a first come, first served fashion). We saw our first canyon sunset that night, and man was it glorious.
You can see our campsite location here.

Day 2
So, on to the story of the backcountry camping permit...

Most people that are smart and know what they're doing when camping in the Grand Canyon obtain a backcountry permit. It's the little piece of paper that allows you to hike down to the bottom of the canyon to the river, stay overnight at a campsite, and hike back up the next day. Apparently, less than 2% of the people who visit the canyon actually end up hiking all the way to the Colorado. I think that's sad, but now I kind of understand why. The waiting list for that kind of camping is horrendous. So, we settled. We chose a last minute site that had two openings on Horseshoe Mesa. The only problem with that is that Grandview trail that goes down to the mesa is one of the hardest trails on the South Rim (crazy elevation drop off right at the start), and the trail has no water along it and no water in the immediate area of the campsite itself. You can imagine what kinds of problems this poses for fairly inexperienced hikers such as ourselves. A short description of the area. But, we're total rockstars, so you better believe we attempted it. Yes, attempted (we're also smart wusses).

We packed up our campsite, set out on the hike and got about 3 miles down the trail before Garrett reported feelings of queasiness and leg pain. Of course, this was no surprise to me since he packed up a bag that probably weighed about 40 pounds (complete with a full size air mattress, non-lightweight sleeping bag and water filtration system, among other things). So, we turned around and hiked the 3 miles back up (which turned out to be a very good idea).

We both got a good amount of exercise for the day, and we got to take hot showers back at GC Village and have a hot dinner at Maswick Lodge - 2 things we couldn't have done if we had been tired and in pain down on the mesa. Now don't get me wrong, I'm disappointed that we didn't make it all the way down and back up again. But, I also realized that we probably wouldn't have been very comfortable and were certainly not adequately prepared for the overnight stay. Luckily, our same campsite at Desert View was still available when we got back late that afternoon. At only $12 a night, I couldn't complain.

Day 3
You better believe that we took things easy today. After the Grandview trail ordeal, it just made sense. We decided to do the Rim Trail hike, which was about a 13 mile stretch of path that covered the Village and an area all the way to the westernmost side of the South Rim that dead-ended at Hermit's Rest. We hiked for about two miles and then said "screw it" and took a free shuttle from the village that made stops along all of the major vista points along the trail. Yes, we were tired (and it was spitting rain by mid-afternoon anyway). But again, the views were spectacular, and not at all ruined by the fact that we were on a shuttle bus traveling between them.

When we got done that evening, we took showers in the Village (god, I love showers) and had a nice dinner at the Arizona Room restaurant at the Bright Angel Lodge. It started raining hard as we were on our way back to Desert View that night, and so we had to deal with the wet and the cold all night and all morning in that tiny tent. Garrett called it romantic. I called it something entirely different. But, as long as the tent didn't leak (not too badly at least), I could handle it. :) Sleeping in a semi-wet tent is one thing. Packing up the semi-wet tent in the rain in the early morning is something entirely different. Suffice it to say that we didn't get along too well that morning. BUT...all was well. The rain cleared up by the time we got halfway to the Village and Mather point, and the fog and clouds that formed over the roadway on the way back only made the canyon that much more beautiful. I'm no weather expert, but I suspect that the hot weather at the bottom of the canyon combined with the cool, rainy weather at the rim to create these massive low-hanging clouds that just moved up from bottom to top faster than any cloud movement I've ever experienced before. One minute you're standing on the edge and it's completely clear, 30 seconds later you're surrounded by a big white cloud. It would have been too easy to just walk off the edge of the canyon rim at that point, so I'm glad they had safety rails. I wish Garrett's camera had been charged, because then I could have gotten a video of the clouds. Oh well.

We left the Grand Canyon around 11AM and began our drive south to the city of Williams, AZ, which would connect us to I-40 and Las Vegas.

This is where my Grand Canyon tale ends. On to something different...


The best thing that happened after we left the canyon wasn't Vegas. The Hoover Dam was much cooler, and is quite a sight to behold. When you know the story and the facts behind its creation, you're even more impressed and in awe of this gigantic structure. We parked on the Arizona side of the dam (can you believe the Nevada side charges a fee to park in their parking garage?) and walked down to the museum and visitor center. We decided to take the power plant tour, which leads down into the generator rooms at the base of the dam. It was impressive and a little bit scary all at the same time, being surrounded by all of that concrete and water.

After the dam (haha) tour and the long lines in traffic, we crossed into Nevada and drove the short 30 minute drive into the heart of the city of Las Vegas, where we arrived at our surfers' residence around 7:30PM.

Walter and Shayra had plans for the evening, so they dropped us off at Fremont Street (which is the "old" Strip, apparently) and we walked around and had a quick dinner at one of the casinos. A portion of the street is home to the world's largest LED screen, and it was stunningly insane to walk underneath that thing.

After the Fremont Street walk we took the city bus to the beginning of the real Strip, and went up to the top of the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino. It was around this time that I started to realize Vegas was not for me. First off, it costs $14.95 to go up to the top of the tower. Second, they don't tell you that you can't bring a tripod up with you until you get to the security check at the elevator. SO, not only have you paid a ticket price for a lame view that you can't even take a proper picture of, but you have to go all the way down to the first floor of the hotel and walk halfway across the casino to get to a secure place where the bellhop can stow the tripod for you. Then, you ride their shitty elevator to the top, wishing the whole time you hadn't wasted your hard-earned money.

Once we left we continued our walk down the Strip, stopping along the way to take pictures. I actually had some drunk guys approach me outside of a Walgreens and offer me $20 to take a picture of them. That was nice.
We made it as far as the Venetian Hotel & Casino, and by then it was around 2:30AM, and certainly time to call it quits for the night.

Saturday was our 2nd (and thankfully, last) day in Vegas. We started the day with a bus ride out to the area of the Strip we had left off at the previous night. The first thing we did was go into Caesar's Palace, and that was probably the highlight of the whole Vegas experience. I think this is mostly because it was filled with the most expensive, fancy stores I'd ever seen situated all in the same area in my life - Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Tiffany and Co., Dolce & get the point. And, there was no shortage of ridiculously wealthy, fake-looking couples walking around whipping out credit cards left and right. Don't get me wrong - I know that Los Angeles, NYC and Milan probably have the same configuration at their major shopping centers, but I'm just a poor girl from the midwest, and the idea of dropping a few thousand dollars on a purse worries me. Oh, and there was this crazy spectacle in the center of the mall with fire and stuff. I don't really know how to explain it, but it was insane. Just these mechanical moving characters in a fountain with flames all over the place. I'm pretty sure the ceiling was singed where the flames had jumped. Weird. It was right in front of the Cheescake Factory. I should have gone there for lunch that day, I suppose.

Instead of the Cheescake Factory, we went to Subway. Yes ladies and gentlemen, even the Strip in Vegas offers $5 footlongs. :) Oh, and Garrett bought a $26 margarita at the mall as well. What does that tell you when our alcohol purchase more than quadruples our real food purchase?

So after Caesar's Palace, we continued our walk down the street to some other casinos. We hit Paris (I bought a $15 margarita there), New York New York, The Bellagio, The Venetian and the Luxor.

We wanted to see the MGM Grand (can you believe they have actualy caged lions inside the hotel lobby?), but by the end of the afternoon we were just so tired and had to make it back for a dinner date that was set with our hosts. So...that was that. No more Strip, no more fake crap, no more fancy stores...just a simple (but wonderful) down-to-earth home-cooked meal and a $7 bottle of wine to share amongst the 4 of us. That's more my style anyway. :) Walter and I stayed up fairly late and talked about / exchanged music, and I finally got to bed around 3AM.

Sunday was our last day of traveling. We left Vegas around midday and decided to go by Lake Mead on our way out of town. It seemed like an appropriate conclusion to our vacation. A perfect blend between the city lights of Vegas and the wild and beautiful country of the Grand Canyon.

We went swimming for a couple of hours, then got back on the highway to make our way to Phoenix, where we stopped for a couple hours to watch an early release of The Brothers Bloom, which I had been wanting to see ever since I heard of its release 6 months ago. The movie was great, and we arrived back in Tucson around 2AM.

And, there you have it. The (almost) perfect vacation within a vacation. I'm sitting here on Garrett's back porch typing these final words, contemplating the beauty of the Catalina mountains in the sunset, wondering exactly what my next move will be and where this crazy journey is going to take me. The next time I write, it will be from California. :) Wonderful, sunny California...