My Birthday Surprise (Day 4)

This is the last one for my birthday weekend 2008. Whew!

We woke up on Monday morning and Terry gave me my choice of doing whatever I wanted to do. Since he had been so good to me and spoiled me all weekend, I decided that I would choose something that he’s always talked about doing. Whenever the subject of Meteor Crater comes up, he always comments about the fact that he’s never been there but would like to go, so even though he made no requests to go there, that’s where we went.

Just as we arrived a group was leaving for an hour “tour” of the crater. Basically we walked along the top edge for a short distance and heard some of the history about how they think it happened and the man who discovered, tried to mine and then preserved it for research and the public to enjoy. You can read more about it here. There was also this adorable German family on the tour with 4 little kids (about 2 – 8 years old) that just couldn’t stay still. The guide (and Terry) were freaking out that they might fall down the edge of the crater, which probably wouldn’t be too hard to do. The parents seemed pretty oblivious (as parents can tend to be when they’re used to the chaos of having little ones). Thankfully everyone survived with no more than a scraped knee and a few tears.

The crater is essentially a massive hole in the ground where a meteor struck long long ago. It’s about 550 feet deep, 4000 feet across and 2.4 miles in circumference. Cool thing is that many of the astronauts that went to the moon trained at the crater to try to simulate the lunar surface. In fact, when one of their training suits was torn by a rock, NASA realized that they needed to make changes in the design because a tear of that kind on the moon would have meant certain death.

The gray fenced area at the bottom of the crater is an area where they tried to mine iron in the early days after discovery, but were unsuccessful. If you enlarge the picture you might be able to see the full size cutout of the astronaut and American flag to give you an idea of the scale of the crater. You really can’t see it with the naked eye at all from the top. It’s very hard to get true perspective on the size from the ground pictures, so go to the website if you want more detailed information.
After we left the crater, we decided to drive down part of historic Route 66 thru Winslow and on to Payson then Phoenix. We had recently watched an Arizona Highways TV show about Winslow and remembered some interesting sights that we thought we’d check out…and how often are we going to get to Winslow anyway?
While driving along the highway, this train engine reminded me of my younger days when we lived just a few blocks from the railroad tracks. Whenever we were near the train we would always signal to the engineer or the caboose to blow the whistle and they obliged. My brother, Rusty ran away to California when he was only 13 by hitching rides on empty train cars too. I realize that trains may be obsolete someday. Cabooses already seem to be obsolete, which is kinda sad.
When we pulled into Winslow, first we stopped to see the statue commemorating the famous line from the Eagles song, “Take it Easy”. You know the one, “standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona such a fine sight to see…”.

I know it’s cheezy and definitely just a way to get tourists to stop, but I took the bait and indeed stopped to snap a few photos just for fun. We also stopped at the gift shop across the street and I bought a spiffy little Route 66 coffee mug as a souvenir of the weekend.

On the way out of town we passed by their 9-11 Memorial which we had seen on the show, but completely forgot about until we saw it. There are photos here of the two twisted beams that the town of Winslow requested and received from the World Trade Center towers after 9-11. The plaque and American flag all stand at this same memorial at the edge of town. You probably wouldn’t even know what it was if you were driving by, but if you get up that way, be sure to stop. I find it touching that this little town has chosen to honor the tragedy and those who died in this precious way, so far from New York, out in the middle of the Arizona desert.

After this stop we headed south thru Payson, then stopped for dinner in Scottsdale before heading home after a truly amazing weekend.

Birthday Surprise – Day 3 (part 3)

(you’re probably thinking this is never going to end, huh?)

If you’re looking for the winner of the book drawing, go here.

So I think I still have too much to cover in one post, so I’ll just do what I can and finish the rest another day.

Sunday after Walnut Canyon we decided to visit the Arboretum at Flagstaff, which we had never heard of before. Apparently it’s been around since the 80’s, but that’s about the same time that we moved to So Cal, so explains why we weren’t familiar with it.

Anyway, it was a lovely place for a stroll as you can see from the photos, but was a bit frustrating because the map that they gave us didn’t match the signs that were on the grounds which made it difficult to navigate around. We decided that the person or people who designed the map and signs obviously didn’t understand the meaning of “attention to detail”…oh well, it was a nice cool summer day and we enjoyed our time there. The squirrel was in the process of hiding some acorns at the bottom of that tree, which was fun and it had been a long time since I’d seen a robin. They were so common in Ohio, but definitely not in Phoenix.

In our next post we’ll head to Meteor Crater and

take a drive down Route 66 thru Winslow.

Birthday Surprise Day 3 (Part 2) Exploring around Flagstaff

Don’t forget to scroll down to my post about the book giveaway and add your comment to get in the drawing. I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday night.

So, on to the next report…after the kids headed east and west, Terry and I checked into our hotel, then decided to head out to a place that we hadn’t been since the kids were young. Walnut Canyon, a great place to go in the summer to get out of the Phoenix heat and enjoy the cool and green of the north country.

 

Walnut Canyon is filled with Indian ruins and caves in the rocks that you can actually walk in and imagine what it would have been like to live in these dwellings hundreds of years ago.

Unfortunately, when we arrived we were surprised to discover that two separate rock falls had damaged the main trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument last December, 2007, depositing a 49-ton boulder, several other large rocks, and 100 additional tons of debris on the most popular Island Trail.The slide demolished concrete stairs, handrails, and a bench.The trail was immediately closed to the public, and park staff began assessing the cleanup process.According to reports, the project has proved more complicated than it first appeared, and the trail will remain closed through at least September of this year. If you plan to go up there sometime, I’d recommend calling first to see if
the trail is open, since it serves as the only access to the cliff dwellings (the most interesting part).

Posted here are some pics of some of the wildlife that we saw. If you click to enlarge

the 4th photo you can see at least 3 different dwellings in the sides of the canyon. You can see in a couple of the other photos what the dwellings look like from closer up.

In the 6th photo from the top, you should be able to see the large bird (hawk?) flying on the right side of the picture. It was really cool to see these birds soaring below us, when we stood at the overlook.

Even though we couldn’t walk down to the dwellings, we still had a nice time. As you can see the clouds were a bit ominous and we heard some thunder and got sprinkled on a little, but we look forward to that around here. It’s a nice change of pace.

Next we visited the Flagstaff Arboretum…

Good news! I was finally able to post the photos on Monday’s post, so be sure to scroll down to see those…and would someone comment please so I know that you’re out there reading these?

Thanks…

More fun to come from Sunday and Monday (but not nearly as exciting as the first two days).

Not sure if I’ll stay with these blog colors, just needed a quick change of pace.

Surprise Birthday (Day 2) – woke up at 3:30 a.m.!

There was no pink jeep tour!


Let’s consider this more of a photo description of the morning since I have so many pictures and thought it was very interesting how everything happened.

Amy also has an account of our morning here. And Kevin has random photos from the weekend here. So far Andrew hasn’t posted anything, even though I’d love to hear his account of this day since it was his birthday and he said he was a little nervous before going.

To start with, when we were waiting out in front of the hotel at 4:30 a.m. in the dark, the vehicle that greeted us was not a Pink Jeep, like Terry said, but an older model SUV pulling a trailer and guess what? The trailer was carrying a hot air balloon basket!!! For those of you who read my post about Day 1 and Item # 25 on my 50 Random Things About Me List, this is what I was suspecting and even hoping for. I’ve always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon and now I was so excited that it was going to happen with the rest of the family being able to enjoy it too. Now I’m not anything close to a daredevil but I never thought once about being afraid of going up. It just seemed like it would be so peaceful and beautiful…and it was, but I’m getting ahead of myself. BTW, for any of you who want to know more about hot air ballooning (as opposed to gas ballooning – there is a difference). Here’s more info. The company we used was Northern Light Balloon Expeditions and we were very happy Terry chose them since the company with the larger baskets (that hold 16-20 people) didn’t even get off the ground that day, probably because of a slightly higher wind than usual that morning.

Our pilot, Dan greeted us in front of the hotel and we loaded into the car. On the way to the launch site and thru-out the trip he filled us in on all manner of facts and trivia about ballooning, Sedona and any other topic that came up. He looked pretty young (maybe 30 at the oldest) but was very knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. We were glad we had him as our pilot. He even told us that he grew up in Sedona and was raised by his great-grandfather (who made him learn how to back up those crazy trailers in tight spots). It would have been interesting to hear the background on his youth, but he moved right along to other subjects.

So here are the basic steps that go along with the pictures:

We arrived at the launch site and the pilots released a small helium balloon (like you have at a party) to see how the wind currents were moving. At the first spot, the wind was moving too fast up at higher altitudes and would have taken us over the city limits (which isn’t permitted) so we had to drive to a location farther west of town.
Arriving at launch site # 2 they did the same thing and seemed to be happy with the course of the little balloon, so our crew found a clear spot to start preparing to launch.

As we waited patiently (and tried to wake up – I would recommend a nice touch would be offering a cup of coffee here), they pulled the basket and the balloon (it was inside the big bag) off the trailer and tipped over the basket on it’s side. It appeared to be quite heavy. Good thing since we were all going to be in it later. Then they spread out the balloon on the ground.

Next they asked for volunteers (Kevin & Andrew) to hold up the “throat” at the bottom of the balloon and turned on a good sized fan to start blowing air into it while the crew straightened the balloon and made sure none of the ropes were twisted, etc..
Once everything looked ready, Dan turned on the burners to heat the air in the balloon and make it rise just enough, but not too much to go up in the sky.

You can see 3 other balloons almost ready for take-off from one of the ground pictures here.

Soon we stepped in the little slot near the bottom of the basket and climbed into the balloon. (max capacity was 7 people plus the pilot and we had 5 plus the pilot) Seven would have been pretty cozy with the 4 fuel tanks that were also in there.

After lift off we went up to about 2000 feet at the highest. It was pretty awesome to see the other balloons so far below us and the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona in the distance. Since the city won’t allow the balloons over city limits, they don’t get too close to the rock formations, but it was still beautiful all the same. And we also got low enough to see jack rabbits running along the ground. We had a couple of visitors in the sky in who got close enough to say hello. Dan knew them both and enjoyed the company, I think.

I like the one photo of the balloon above us using the flames to make it rise higher. In the twilight of morning, it was kind of cool to be able to see the flames light up the inside of the balloon.

Unfortunately, since things were moving so quickly we didn’t get a picture of all of us in the basket…oh well, you can’t have everything. We have the memories.

We were in the air for about an hour and it was glorious! The landing was a little bumpy and actually pretty comical to watch everyone trying to hold on and not fall over onto Dan, the pilot while he was trying to do whatever needed to be done to actually land the thing. We all made it out o.k. though and I would do it again in a second. It was so much fun!

After the balloon ride we gathered with all the other folks who had gone up (in the other 4 balloons) and enjoyed a light breakfast of fresh strawberries, a cream cheese and marshmallow dip, danish and a mimosa toast, which was a nice touch. Then we headed back to the hotel.
Since we hadn’t had much breakfast, we went out to Oaxaca to eat, thinking that they might have some good Mexican style breakfast food, which is Andrew’s favorite. It was his actual birthday after all. They didn’t really have much that was different and the food was pretty average which was a bummer.

Oh well, our dinner that night made up for it big time. I’ll post about that maybe tomorrow…

Speaking of dinner, I better go make some since Terry’s been working outside all day on the yard in 100 degree temps and is probably exhausted.

Hope you like all the pics. I tried to get a good sampling to give you an idea of what it was like, but if there’s something else you want to see, let me know and I’ll post it.

Thanks for your patience in getting thru all this.

Let the celebrating begin!
O.k. let’s get it out right now. I’m going to be 50 on July 7th. Sure, when you say it out loud it sounds pretty old, but these days I could just be halfway thru my life, so how can that be old? And I just can’t imagine how anyone can be depressed when they have a birthday. It’s a celebration of you and your life for Pete’s sake. I am so blessed with a wonderful family, good health, amazing friends, a great job and a God who showers me with love and everything that I could ever ask for. How can I possibly justify being depressed?

You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about my birthday already. Well it just so happens that one of my most cherished friends in all the world also turned 50 yesterday, so a small group of our friends (of over 30 years) got together to celebrate with us. Andy & Julie (pictured separately) hosted the affair at their home. We were greeted with a beautifully set table with china and all, plus a gorgeous bouquet of purple and white flowers to make the setting complete. They (with a little help from Rand) made an AMAZING beef tenderloin that was as tender as butter with all the trimmings. No lie, it was absolutely delicious! Terry and I discussed the fact that it tasted like something we had at the (5 star) Four Seasons resort last year that cost over $100 a plate. It was THAT good! It was followed by a delicious dessert with angel food cake, fresh berries and wonderful fresh fruit sorbet. Mmmmm…

After dinner Sharon and I got to open presents. That’s always fun. You’ll see some of them in the photo below. A perfect glass topped side table that I’ll probably use in the family room, as well as blue placemats, napkins and a pitcher. Julie gave us a gift certificate for time at the spa to be pampered together. Linda also promised to sew me a thread catcher like the one Sharon is holding and I get to choose the coordinating fabric. All just perfect gifts from friends who know me so well.

Oh by the way, the sunflower photo above was on the front of my card from Sharon and she took the picture herself. Doesn’t it look like a professional took that picture? The blue in the sky and the flower is flawless. That was growing in their back yard. Cool huh?

And the whole night we enjoyed such good conversation with our dear dear friends.

So that’s just the beginning of my birthday week. On Wednesday we’ll celebrate with a few other co-workers that have birthdays in July and next weekend, I’m not sure what we’re doing. Terry won’t tell me. I’m just keeping it open for whatever happens. So far, it couldn’t be better. I feel so loved and blessed to be surrounded by precious people who fill my life with so much joy.

What more could I possibly ask for? We serve an awesome God!