Arizona vacation journal – part 2

Wednesday, April 27thGrand Canyon/Sedona — 2nd day at The Grand Hotel, which was not so grand for the money we paid.  Breakfast at McDonalds (yes, again – OK, so I may be slowly killing myself), except Erik got a deli sandwich at the shop across the street – smart boy.  We drove back into the park and then east along Route 64.  Good thing we did – the turnouts and views were spectacular.  Desert View and the eastern portion of the canyon were awesome.  The Watchtower (in fact, all along the watchtower, ha ha) was a great landmark.  Then we drove south to Flagstaff, a town I really like and want to see again sometime.  We strolled around and found a greek place called the Pita Pit – terrible name but very good, inexpensive greek food.  Almost by accident found a music store and a superb Pink Floyd live double album for $20, which we listened to on the drive to Sedona.  The town itself is way too touristy for my taste – Erik and I grew very tired of the gift shops and over-priced merchandise.  We all enjoyed ice cream at Sabrina’s, sitting in the sunny, beautiful weather.  The views of the surrounding red rock hills are wonderful.  For dinner we found a very good restaurant called Cuisine of India – Erik was proud to have “called” the lunch and  dinner places.  His taste is improving, except in TV-land, where he still thinks Spongebob Squarepants is the be-all, end-all of shows…  Watched Death Wish 3 on the television before bedtime – Karen was not thrilled about that movie, which was entertaining at first but ultimately lousy.  We had some good laughs about it!  Also spent some time on Facebook, but it has been really nice to get away from computers…  This was the best day of our vacation so far.  Somewhere along the road between the Canyon and Sedona, stopping at viewpoint along the highway, I really felt the love for the desert.  We passed through part of a reservation, and I could feel the presence of the native american spirituality.  Really.  At times I wish we could just give it all back to the people who were here first, because they get it…

Thursday, April 28thSedona/Phoenix — Slept pretty well at the Days Inn.  Free continental breakfast.  Free is the operative word there.  Erik was a slug as usual, and we didn’t get going until a bit after 9am.  Drove to Red Rock State Park, found the visitor center, and decided to go on a self-guided hike.  Climbed to the top of Eagles Nest Trail, where we had a beautiful view north and east.  75-minute hike in perfect weather.  Drove for about 2 hours back to Phoenix.  Lunch  at In-N-Out Burger; discovered that it’s not nearly as popular in AZ as it is in CA…  Met up with Tom, who seemed fine but said he had a rough couple of days in terms of exhaustion from valley fever.  Walked around the Botanical Garden in Papago Park – very nice collection of cacti and sage.  Karen got a bit over-heated or something, but we had basically seen the whole thing anyway, so we left.  After checking in at the Best Western, we decided to go for cold treats – icees for the kids; I had ice cream, Karen had a soda.  Sat outside near the hotel pool and chatted with Tom for over an hour.  He talked about his current job at Denny’s and his lack of interest in pursuing any other career.  He left for home, and we watched TV for awhile and then went out for mexican food at Los Sombreros – everybody really enjoyed the meal.  Watched 30 Rock online and then got ready for bed.  All in all, a very nice day!

Friday, April 29thPhoenix — For once I felt like we were totally not in a rush to get up and get going.  For me, “sleeping in” until 7am or so feels really late; I am usually up by 6 or earlier…  For breakfast, we bought donuts at a Circle K; no contintental breakfast included.  Our breakfasts sound so lame, but really, everybody seems OK with our low-budget style, and we don’t like to spend a lot of time eating in the morning.  Custard-filled donut with chocolate icing, yum!  Erik had scheduled a campus tour of Arizona State for 9:30am, so we were in a bit of a rush.  Anyway, Karen and Lara dropped us off and went to a library and museum while Erik and I enjoyed walking around ASU – a large but very nice campus with cool amenities.  It’s nice to know that if for some reason he needs an out-of-state fallback university, he would probably qualify for the honors program at ASU.  He seemed all grown-up while walking around campus!  Tom met us for lunch in Tempe, and we all wandered around trying to decide on a lunch place.  Once again, Erik made the right call – My Big Fat Greek Restaurant.  Huge plates of great-tasting gyros and salad for like $6, what a bargain!  Loved it.  Then we walked around some more before Tom had to leave.  The rest of us went to the Phoenix Art Museum, which was pretty good.  There is a lot of wasted space there; they could pack more exhibits in.  The coolest things I saw were too huge (maybe 15′ x 20′) photos (or stitched-together photos, but they looked flawless) – one of almost the entire Pacific Ocean and one of nearly the whole Atlantic Ocean!  Amazing.  I wondered how much they would cost, because I would love to have those hanging on my walls.  Would need to get a bigger house with bigger walls…  The dumbest thing I saw was a collection of very childish water-color pieces by an artist named Richard Tuttle.  OK, how to describe?  Each piece was on a sheet of school-type ruled paper, and each one had maybe 3 to 6 small brushstrokes forming a very small, random looking shape in the middle of the page, leaving 90% of the paper blank.  I’m sorry, it was absolutely the same thing most parents have seen their 3-year-old do, I swear.  It was not worthy of a museum, in my humble opinion.  All part of a collection wisely donated by some now-deceased local couple; someone should have told the curator to say “thanks but no thanks!”  Around 7pm we met my Aunt Norma & Uncle Tom for dinner at a place called Oregano’s in the trendy part of Scottsdale.  They had never seen Lara before, and they only saw Erik when he was 3 years old!  So, it had been awhile; the reasons for that would take up an entire post.  Suffice it to say I have issues with my aunt.  But I had fun talking with them.  Tom and Carla also joined us, and they helped carry the conversations.  For dessert we all went to a nifty old ice cream parlor called the Sugar Bowl (famous for being a hangout of Bil Keane, who referred to it a number of times in his Family Circus comic strip).  A very fun outing!  It is never easy to say goodbye to relatives one may not see again for years, so I felt a bit awkward, but it was fun seeing them and really could not have gone any better… 

Saturday, April 30th — getaway day — Because our flight was not until 2:45pm, we actually had time for more sightseeing, so after another IHOP breakfast (and for me more of those wonderful crepes), we visited the Arizona Science Center for about an hour or so before heading to the airport.  Compared to the California Academy of Science or COSI in Columbus, OH, the AZ version was a disappointment for me.  Again, like the west itself with all the wide-open spaces, somebody should tell the curators of these places that they have way too much open space.  Come on, peoples, show us more stuff!  There were entire wings with what seemed like only a half dozen exhibits.  There were hands-on science activities, but nothing I hadn’t seen before.  The sad part was that the history museum next door had been closed, and some of the history exhibits had been randomly mish-mashed in the science center, almost as an after-thought.  Personally, I would have enjoyed more history and less of the dumbed-down science stuff.  I suppose sometimes one has to visit sub-standard museums to appreciate what a great museum can look like…  All morning I had a bit of a sad feeling, like post-vacation blues already setting in.  By the time we boarded our plane, however, I was in a more cheerful mood, because I was looking forward to returning to Walnut Creek.  I have heard it said that a great vacation requires two things:  a great place to go and a great place to go back to!  Very true.

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About goldenbearflyer

Robert Martz is a writer who doesn't make any money writing, so he keeps a day job in finance. He lives and works in Walnut Creek, CA. He began blogging in 2011 as a way of taking responsibility for and finding a place to put his thoughts and feelings. He loves to eat, cook, and travel. He volunteers, practices yoga, runs, bicycles, hikes, and explores nature with passion and a child-like sense of wonder. He is inspired by his amazing friends, doers and other writers. Check out another of his blogs at http://goldenbearflyer.webnode.com/.
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