Zion

Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah

A few years ago, I won a contest to Zion from A to Zion. Since the server this blog was on was not working, I never did finish posting about the trip.

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Brian’s and my flight was delayed from Denver, so unfortunately, we lost a few hours on our first day in Zion. The shuttle from the airport costs way more than renting a car, so Brian and I opted for the wheels from Alamo. St. George has a nice and small airport so finding the car rental was a cinch.

I have a fascination with aviation arrows and knew there were some around St. George. Though I had a map printed out, we were unable to find the first arrow. We weren’t sure if the land was private or not and didn’t want to risk trespassing. Also, it was really hot out, so we postponed that search so we can get to our hotel, Flanigan’s Inn, in Springdale.

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The view from our hotel, Flanigan’s Inn.

I cannot say enough nice things about this place. The staff was extremely nice. The room was lovely, clean and comfortable with a balcony that had an out of this world view. AND. . . it is the closest hotel to the entrance of Zion National Park. They were kind enough to leave me this lovely note and gifts. IMG_1777.JPG

 

We threw down our luggage and got right into our hiking clothes to hike Emerald Pools, since it is an easy hike.

I have been to Red and Bryce Canyons, but Zion quickly rose to the top for me. The deep red and browns, with perfect fluffy clouds made for an almost out-of-body experience. It felt like a nature-Disneyland. So beautiful, that I had wished the sun would not go down. Utah, for the win.

On the hike, there was a little girl that kept clapping her hands together, yelling at her Dad, “CHOP CHOP!” Pretty funny. Then we passed a gaggle of girls that were all talking at the same time, with not one actually listening to the others. I don’t miss being that young. Then we got to the waterfall! Everyone loves a waterfall!!!

For dinner, we went to the Spotted Dog at Flanigan’s Inn, which I definitely recommend. The dinner was outstanding. They played Nora Jones, so she will forever be associated with that pleasant evening. I really like getting stuff for free and the dinner was included in my winnings.

The next morning, I woke up very early so I could walk up to the labyrinth to see the sunrise. Yes. Flanigan’s Inn has a labyrinth!!! I went up alone and enjoyed the silence as the sun arose. (Their labyrinth is flat on the ground and not like “The Shining.”) I spent quite a while there since I knew there was NO way Brian was going to be awake yet. Then I had to walk down. It is not a tall hill, by any means, but when I realized that snakes like sunrise, too, it became the longest walk ever. No snake sightings, though. I have never actually seen a rattle snake in the wild and am hoping to keep it that way.

 

We fit in two hikes that Tuesday. Neither required a permit and were both fairly easy and not too lengthy. Per weather.gov, I knew it was going to rain, so we hoped to get the hikes in before it was to start in the later afternoon.

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The first one we did was Weeping Rock. Gorgeous, with water seeping out of the rocks above. GORGEOUS!

 

The second was the Riverside Walk, which is a very simple walk that leads to the Narrows. As we were walking, the sky made it clear that it was ready to spout upon all of the hikers. Parks are always extremely clear about dangers within and Zion was sure to have warnings about lightning and flash floods. So, when we found ourselves right by a river with no safe cover when the torrential rain began to pour, I may have been a bit panicky. We started to walk back quickly as the drizzle began, and I kept believing we wouldn’t get wet, but, as I became more and more drenched, it became more and more fun. We were in hiking clothes so who cares how soaked we got? It was exhilarating and romantic. Also, cold. Wet clothes can definitely get cold.

 

We snagged a shuttle back to the entrance, where we had tickets to see a movie about Zion.

The movie was weird. Just weird. It was a story about the evolution of people dwellers in Zion and hmm. Sure. So, when that was done, we got massages, available at Flanigan’s Inn, which is always a nice perk. The rain had finally stopped, so we thought we were good for the evening.

We had the rental car, but I made us take the shuttle for the fun of it. So, when we first checked in, the front desk told us about the shuttles to/from the rest of the town (on Zion Park Blvd.), and also the ones that are within Zion. I did not remember when the last shuttle back to the hotel was, which proved to be an unfortunate mistake later. Slight foreshadowing: We went to a store across the street and randomly bought water/hiking shoes before we hopped on the shuttle.

Brian and I perused the stores until we needed food. For that, we chose pizza and noodles at The Flying Monkey and sat outside. At a metal table. As we ate, it began to rain again. I got my first ever picture of lightning. I probably took 800 pictures until I got it. We enjoyed the rain and our pizza as we gazed into the street, watching a shuttle go by and thinking nothing of it.

Dinner was finished and the rain was coming down so hard it was kind of opaque. We dashed across the street to the covered shuttle area and waited. And waited. And waited. We called Flanigan’s to ask when the last one would come. Oh, shit. The last shuttle left at 9. The shuttle we watched while eating. Neither of us had paid any attention to how far away our hotel was and it was dark and really stormy. I have no explanation why I did not just look at a map on my phone. I can’t remember if I had reception issues. Let’s go with that. Funny how my mind works. We went to a bar, Wildcat Willie’s, to try to wait out the rain. I ran into the store next door to buy some safety items to get back, like a flash light, ponchos and a bright orange bag so we would be visible to cars. AND.. we had those new SHOES! After I purchased everything, I mention to the store clerk, Spencer, how derp we were and he said if we waited until he was finished closing the store, he would take us back to the hotel. AND THAT is why I love smaller towns. So, Brian and I wait him out with some wine, beer and chips, buying a brownie for Spencer as our thank you. Finally, I go to Google to find out how far away our hotel is…. When Spencer was done, we hopped into his car and arrived at our hotel in less than 5 minutes. But, at least we have a cool bright orange bag that we now bring with us on every trip. The most important thing in it now is the wine opener.

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My first ever photo of lightning.

 

 

-Jenn

Red Rock, Rocky Mountain NP

(Originally Posted on October 27, 2014)

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Sunday. Our second and final day in Colorado. So many things that we wanted to do.. so many things we did not do. Two days is NOT enough. For sure!

We did not get out of the house until pretty late. After eating breakfast, which is something I usually do not put that much effort into on vacations, we decided to check out the Red Rock Amphitheater.

 

IMG_2353Brian lived in Colorado for a while years ago. He told me watching concerts there during rain and thunderstorms is the best. It is open to the public for free when there is no show. The stage is not accessible if a show is setting up, though. There were a lot of people using the place to exercise. Definitely a great idea to check it out. I want to see a show there someday.

We FINALLY made it to Rocky Mountain National Park. I had been there
years ago, but wanted new memories. Zipping through Estes, we got to
the park pretty quickly.

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Rocky Mountain National Park

There were signs saying that there was no more parking near the hike and a shuttle is best. We parked in a lot and grabbed a shuttle.! Naturally, there was a ton of parking at our stop, but the shuttle did not take that much more time than driving.
IMG_2371We went on the awesome hike that includes the lily pads on Nymph Lake
and the stunning Emerald Lake seemingly unreal Dream Lake.

Time was not our friend. Unable to do any more activities, we zoomed
back for an AMAZING dinner, knowing we will return someday.

 

 

-Jenn

First Stop. Denver

(originally published October 20, 2014)

I won a trip to Utah from the St. George Tourism site AtoZion. It included a flight from Denver, CO to St. George, UT. Brian, my boyfriend, and I had previously discussed going to Colorado anyway, since we both have friends there and love it, so we took the prize.!! We used some of my United miles to get to Denver and used Priceline to grab a car rental. In retrospect, I wasted miles for such an inexpensive flight. Eh. We snagged a parking space at 405 near LAX. This lot does require a reservation. We were not asked to prove we had one, we did witness a woman on our shuttle who was refused entry due to her lack of one. She parked in another lot. So, I recommend doing this.

The next day, Saturday, the plan was to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and hike followed by the tram in Estes (which I had been on before and enjoyed), checking out the town and finishing up at The Stanley Hotel for a little ghost action. We took forever to get out of the house. Since I chose to sit in the backseat, I started getting carsick. I think the altitude had something to do with the severity of it. This made me dizzy, cranky and unable to make decisions and is why I completely misread a post on Facebook about National Parks being free.  Thinking it was free that next day, we switched our plans. Hours later, I realized that the free day was Monday, not Sunday. Ugh.

We decided to stop in Boulder to eat and found ourselves in heavy rainstorm without umbrellas. We waited out the rain in a parking structure.

Finally, we were able to grab some food on Pearl Street at Old Chicago. We couldn’t seem to agree on other types of food, so the place was perfect. Plus, hey, I’m from Chicago. Since I completely blew the original plans, (Thanks, stomach and non-functioning brain!) Eric, Brian’s friend that lives there, suggested we drive to Mt. Evans. Up and up and up a scary ass road with no friggen rails. As we ascended, the temperature got colder and colder. Like, purple fingernails cold. The wind was so strong that Eric could not open the car door at one point. The walk to the very top was short, but, due to a lack of warm clothing, we skipped that part and just looked up from inside the car. But we did get out to see the view a little lower.

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Brian and me at Chicago Lakes

It was so cold, that my fingers could barely move and my body was stuck in a frozen popsicle position. I remember it well from my life in Chicago; When you think that by staying in the same hunchy position, it will somehow keep you warmer. Yea. That never works.

We finished the night with sushi near Denver. Hoping to wake up early the
next day and get a move on. . .

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Wow. Just.
WOW

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-Jenn

© 2014! Dart and Map All Rights Reserved – Copyright notice by Blog Copyright

Salton Sea, Take 2, Bananas & Salvation Mountain

The first time I went to Salton Sea, I assumed it was some tiny little body of water, so figured it would be a cinch to find Bombay Beach. Sara and I got there and found a closed visitor’s center and a very smelly run down shack. This time, I made sure to actually research where it is.  This time was also my boyfriend’s first Dart and Map adventure, where it takes 8 hours to go on a 2 hour trip.

Brian and I went to Pappy and Harriets to meet up with some of his friends and to see Lucinda Williams, who was already on the stage playing by the time we got there.  Pappys is a great little restaurant and music joint in Pioneertown, which is about 1 1/2-2 hours from Los Angeles. Pioneertown was originally built as a set for Hollywood Western movies. Now, it has a motel, Pappys & Harriets and the old set buildings with weekend shoot-out reenactments.

We chatted Lucinda up a little bit after the show, which was very cool, and  since I had a few drinks by then, I babbled about how I had learned to play one of her songs on the guitar. Except, it probably sounded more like “ohhh! You inspired me to pick up the guitar and PLAY! bleeh awesome! woo supporting women woohoo” or whatever I said.  My happy drunk is very puppies and rainbows. And then I was probably asleep by midnight.BANANAS!

The discovery of the International Banana Museum trumped my excitement of finally knowing the location of Bombay Beach. Ever since I met a banana in San Francisco, I have developed a bit of an obsession for all things banana. (No, I do not have a million little banana trinkets.) Brian and I got up and out of our hotel room and drove to the banana nirvana. The website said it was open. I didn’t think to call anyway. So, of course, it was closed. Closed! : (

The owner did answer the phone when I called while in front of the place, but he was on his way out of town. Banana dreams. Foiled. (I can’t think of a good banana pun, so foiled will have to do.)

Next, we went to Bombay Beach. Its heyday was in the 1950s and 60s, with Hollywood celebrities flocking there.  The high salinity, followed by storms destroyed this playcation hotspot by the 70s. If you look up the Salton Sea, you always see a picture of a decaying van. So, when you get there and do not see it, there is disappointment. Fortunately, Brian knows a lot of people and ran into a guy he knew. That guy was with a girl that had been visiting since the 80s and directed me to the iconic van. Now it looks like this: IMG_2170IMG_2164

There were some dead fish and random objects along with the rubble of what once was.

 

Brian grabbed the camera and snapped this very awesome photo. IMG_2161

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There are a bunch of trailers off of the beach where people still reside.

 

We went to a local place called Ski Inn for lunch before we darted off to Salvation Mountain, which is another iconic place you have to visit when you are in Southern California.

Salvation Mountain is the recently deceased Leonard Knight‘s way of sending his message to everyone that “God is Love.”  It is about 20 minutes East of Bombay Beach.

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Surely you have seen a picture of this…

People donated paint to him so that he could create his brightly colored mountain, filled with art.  We walked around and checked out all of the cool art on and within the mountain. We were curious about Slab City as well, being that it is RIGHT THERE, but have read enough about it to maybe go when we are feeling more adventurous. Slab is an off-the-grid kind of place. Though it sounds like there are plenty of artists and very interesting types of people there, we were advised to skip it.IMG_2209

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What’s up there?

We decided to go around the Salton Sea instead of back tracking.

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fft fft ffft fft ffft

 

Love driving through new places! I don’t know why it fascinated me that it is so close to Mexico, as was made very clear by the Border Patrol stop we had to make on our way back up. Since we weren’t smuggling anyone or anything, we zipped past and watched the Sea on our right until we reached the 10 Freeway to Los Angeles.IMG_2225

 

-Jenn

Old Mine. Whorehouse. Trains. Flat Tires. Sounds Like Goldfield!

Once we pick a direction in which to travel, we Google everything from Los Angeles to the destination to find interesting places in which to stop.  This time, our search led us to Goldfield, Arizona.

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Starving, as we always are, we high-tailed it to the ghost town’s restaurant, Mammoth Steakhouse & Saloon and ate our faces off while listening to a musician rock some tunes.

We schlepped down a little hill and went to the gold mine. Jumped into the old and rickety elevator and went down down down deep into the old mine.  Our guide told us what all the tools were used for and other stuff that went on there. Our GuideHe was fantastic!! When the tour was done, we were made to walk up ALL the stairs to the top.

 

I will go ahead and say that bringing high heeled shoes on a road trip – as your only pair of close-toed shoes is really dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

The Mystery Shack was near the gold mine so we walked on over and went in.  IMG_2576(Okay. Really. The whole town is near everything in itself.) It is a shack built into a hill and everything is at a 45 degree angle. The guide had people demonstrating how f-ed it makes your sense of balance. Like walking to one side and back… And he had Sara sit on a chair – then put a ball on some wood thing on the wall. The end of the wood thing would make the ball fly right at the person on the chair.  So, even though we all knew damn well that thing was not going to really hit the person – was fun to watch the chair sitter freak out and jump up. HA!  I didn’t get to try anything because of my freaking high heels.

There was a reptile exhibit, so that had to happen. Even though I live in California, I have never seen (and never want to) a rattlesnake in the wild, so a zoo or exhibit is the closest I will ever get (I hope!)

The next attraction we checked out was the whorehouse, of course. (p.s. My spellcheck just made sure to correct me that whorehouse is one word and not two. Phew!) Lu Lu’s Bordello. It cost a few bucks to take the tour and it was a nice quick one as well. What we learned was that whoring back then was even ickier than what ick we assumed. The girls had to bring flipping buckets of water to the house so the smelly dirty ass miners can bathe. So, the first miner got the clean water and the rest of the miners after were in nastier, dirtier & shittier water. Mmm Yes. Bathing in the same water all night long. What does that even say about the guys at the end of the night?  Eww and Ewww.. Get there earlier. The girls also wrote letters home for the men.  The newer girls were in this particular bordello, til the madam trusted them. Then, when they were nice and broken in, they went across to the saloon.

Only Sara and I were on the tour.  But, our tour guide, dressed as a “Floozy,” projected as though she were in a room with 50 people as soon as she started on her memorized schpiel. But, if one of us talked to her, she spoke in her normal voice. At the end of the tour, we were encouraged to hang out and take pictures. There was a bathtub. (I don’t know if it was a replica or an original tub.) (Okay. I hope replica because, otherwise.. EWW!)

IMG_1026Sara put her foot in it to pose and it made the loudest noise, like it was breaking or something.  We were sure they would come back upstairs and reprimand us, but they didn’t. Yay, Us! We broke Goldfield and got away with it!

 

The last thing we hit up was the train. It went around the town. It was the last ride of the day and was during sunset, so the lighting was amazing.IMG_1045

Before we ditched out towards Tucson, we browsed the gift shop. I have a few friends with awesome children, for whom I love to buy interesting presents, so a little bit of shopping is a must sometimes.  I also bought candy. For me. And did not share it. Ney!

 When we exited the parking lot, Sara’s tire died.  I have changed many a tire in my life, but was in no mood. But, before I even had a chance to call Auto Club, a truck pulled up and a man, that is one of the train conductors, stepped out and saved the day. He had the best name. Whiplash.  He put on the spare. Posed for a picture and sent us to a WalMart. And nothing says “Old West” like WalMart.

whiplash

For girls that always lived in cities – the products in that WalMart were.. uh.. interesting..  IMG_2596

When the tire was fixed (which was very quick), we said “F it!” and went all the way to Tucson. Tombstone was on our minds.

Then we hung out with strippers and skydived into the Grand Canyon in wetsuits, holding cardboard..
haha. Yeaaahhh Noooo…. Just making sure you are still paying attention!

 

– Jenn

© 2013 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved – Copyright notice by Blog Copyright

 

 

 

 

Bananas and Other Missed Opportunities

Plans are few and far between on the road, as are reservations when Jenn and I travel, and traveling solo was no different for me. As I made my way from East to West across the states I pretty much stayed where I wound up by day’s end that had a vacancy and a cheap rate. And always only after a bedbug bed check Jenn had instilled in me whenever we traveled as I’d watch her strip the sheets of her bed while I was more worried with checking Yelp for what nightcaps were in the area. Once she was satisfied they were clear, we’d settle in and head out.

Sometimes we’d note places to go and things to see and even get to them if they were of utmost importance, and sometimes we’d see a road sign for a landmark or local must-see and take a segue from the path for that instead. For the places we’d wind up missing as a result or didn’t get to in time we’d just add them to our list for the future.

And then there are the fruitless but fun pursuits. Somewhere outside of Atlanta Jenn texted me that the Big Banana Car was on display. So with her as my co-pilot in spirit I turned around and drove in its direction. If you know anything about Jenn then you know she loves her bananas.

When it comes to costume parties I go glam and Jenn goes bananas
When it comes to costume parties I go glam and Jenn goes bananas

 

 

 

 

 

And if you know anything about GPS and map apps you know they’re not always right. Half an hour into my journey the directions sent me to some industrial park with a similar named street. There was no banana where I wound up, just an office building and a cop who pulled up alongside to tell me to pull into the parking lot nearby instead of the side of the road where I was attempting to re-route my route. Eventually I did see 3 banana yellow colored cars but no actual banana.

Not a banana
Not a banana

 

 

 

 

 

Not a banana either
Not a banana either

 

 

 

Finally I made it to the strip mall where they had tweeted they were at when Jenn texted they just posted they had packed up and were off to their next destination. Mission Banana was a bust. By this point I was hungry and saw something banana yellow nearby calling my name.

Moe knows it's lunchtime
Moe knows it’s lunchtime

 

 

 

It was named Moe’s and had a great big sign hailing it as the original Moe’s.

Moe's sign

I figured it was a local southern fave. Turned out it was more South of the border as it served up southwest fare and was a chain rather than a Mom & Pop’s type place I prefer, but new to these parts it wasn’t a franchise I was familiar with and I’m always up for a quesadilla to quell my hunger, so I ordered up a chicken club one and sampled the salsa bar as I took a bite of a new (for me) regional staple. I was less bummed I passed up something more regionally Southern in these parts, like the BBQ joint I passed back by the industrial park, than I was about being able to connect with a banana for Jenn. We have a very odd bond. But when someone has saved your life in the past you’re willing to jump on board and support what they live for.

Still not a banana
Still not a banana

 

 

 

 

 

Found these at a gas station/convenience store. So close.
Found these at a gas station/convenience store. So close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On my way to Nashville that night I made a detour to Chattanooga and delighted myself (I’m easily amused) by standing on the tracks of where the Chattanooga Choo-Choo once chugged along.

Choo Choo!
Choo Choo!

 

 

 

 

 

tracks

 

 

 

 

 

tracks feet

 

 

 

 

 

Whiskey is another passion of Jenn’s. Bananas and whiskey, what’s not to love about that gal? She’s a fun friend. It’s a shared love, as I do enjoy a good whiskey sour time and again, so in her honor as I continued on and saw signs for the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in the distance I also made a sidetrack trip to see that. Sadly it was closed by the time I made it to its gates, which is ironically situated in a dry county, but the scent of the pungent forbidden spirits filled the air. I paid my respects and took a photo before moving on.

JD sign

Unfortunately Nashville would prove to be a dry stop for me as well even though it was soaking wet. After managing my hydroplaning car through a torrential downpour on the highway I could only find an affordable hotel on the outskirts of the city. I drove down the main strip of fun bars and listened to the live country music coming from each, but decided that to stop for a drink and try to find my hotel in the rain or bothering to go back was not particularly wise or safe (or would be near the legal limit if you saw the number of fun bars there were to try) so I stayed in and added a night out in Nashville to the future to do list for another visit.

2 of my favorite things. I will be back.
2 of my favorite things. I will be back.

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning I did find a funky banana yellow van in the parking lot registered to seekers of the paranormal. Proving that on the road you can count on the abnorm.

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!

 

 

 

 

 

On my way out the random encounters continued as I drove through the city on a sunnier morning. I was greeted with participants dressed in tutus and even bunny ears gearing up in costume for some sort of run/walk fundraiser. I saw a big boot, a giant guitar, and the birthplace of bluegrass, Ryman Auditorium.

Size does matter
Size does matter

 

 

 

 

 

 

guitarBlues sign

 

 

 

 

Somewhere outside of Music City there was no love as I came across a very likeable little place called the Loveless Café.

No love, no vacancy
No love, no vacancy

 

 

 

 

Well in lieu of love they had something even better, lots of bacon! bacon sign

 

 

The BBQ smoker house adjacent was at it filling the air with rich smoky goodness for the dishes being served up inside but there was a line out the door and a wait for a seat so sadly I passed on some ribs and got some of their Piggy Popcorn, candied bacon popcorn, which they sold in their shop alongside an assortment of bacon concoctions and themed gifts as well as a variety of another local fave, pralines, including whiskey ones. I was really enjoying my taste of Tennessee.

Oink if you love bacon
Oink if you love bacon

 

 

 

 

 

 

bacon sign 2

 

 

 

 

Mmm, that's nuts.
Mmm, that’s nuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I drove out a loveless-themed tune called “Merry Go Round” by Kacey Musgraves came on the radio with the lyrics, “Mary Mary quite contrary, we get bored so we get married… Jack and Jill went up the hill, Jack burned out on booze and pills and Mary had a little lamb, Mary just don’t give a damn no more.” I turned it up as I was even starting to enjoy Country music too. They sure do know how to turn a phrase and tell a story. I looked forward to my next new story on the horizon as I headed down the road.

Happy trails,
Sara

© 2013 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved – Copyright notice by Blog Copyright