Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Travels with the Frenchies - Phoenix, Palm Springs & Tramway, Family Interlude in Riverside, CA and San Diego Stay

Phoenix, AZ
Our motel in Sedona was very comfortable.  In the morning, we returned to the main part of Sedona where Black Canyon ended. The Frenchies did about an hour and a half of shopping in the upscale boutiques, galleries and gift shops.  We then took a drive through the surrounding area and visited the Church of the Rocks.

We started to really feel the heat now that we were off the high plateaus of Utah and Arizona.  It was 105 degrees F late in the afternoon as we drove through the everlasting suburbs of Phoenix.

We drove straight to Phoenix for our next overnight stop. I do not know too much about Phoenix and any tourist highlights of the city, so I was at a loss to do much guiding of the family to any attractions of that fair city. I did not take any photographs in Phoenix.

Our hotel was right in the downtown area.  This was the overnight location I was most concerned with – would noise and crime be a problem at an inexpensive motel located in a city core?  As it turned out, the motel was clean, well maintained and quite secure.

We rested a bit and then drove right into the downtown center to do a bit of touring by auto.  We found a Sports Pub and had our dinner amidst the loud cacophony of half a dozen TV sets all turned to different games on various sports channels.

In the morning, we drove West via Interstate 40 towards California and our next night stop in Palm Springs California. It was already very hot and remained that way all day. A major traffic accident nearly closed the freeway.  We took off to drive on the frontage road and luckily found a Waffle House restaurant within a few miles where we stopped for an excellent breakfast.

The Waffle House restaurants are a chain of small, inexpensive, 24 hour, 7 days a week café eateries that feature waffles and other breakfast fare. Foods for the other meals of the day are listed on the menu as well.  I think the Frenchies enjoyed the food as much as I did.

We drove rapidly to the border of California, crossing the Colorado River for the last time at Blythe, Ca.  Once again we found a super market to buy beverages and delicatessen sandwiches for our lunch. 

By the way, no one in the French Family drinks wine, they are happy with bottled water and soft drinks.  We were directed to a small park on the river by a store clerk where we had our lunch in the shade.  It was extremely hot!

Palm Springs
We arrived in Palm Springs by the mid afternoon. Our motel for the night was quite upscale, well decorated and very comfortable.

Summer is the low season for Palm Springs because of the extreme heat caused by its location at the edge of the Mojave Desert tucked up at the bottom of the Eastern side of the San Jacinto Mountain Range.  

We spent several hours in the pool at the motel waiting for the sun to go down before heading out to dinner and to explore the small city center and make a decision about where to have dinner.

Pool at Best Western Las Brises - Palm Spings, Ca

Once again most of the people staying at the motel were families from Europe touring the Western United States – Germans, Italians, French and a few Eastern Europeans.

We had dinner at a small café that featured hamburgers.  I took a photo of Nicholas with the “waitress” figure at the entrance of the restaurant. 

Nicholas in Palm Springs, Ca
I was surprised at how small the city center of Palm Springs is.  In my memory picture of Palm Springs, the city has block after block of very swank art galleries, restaurants and gift shops.  It is all that, but only a few blocks – so much for my memory!

The next morning, we had breakfast at the motel before going to the Palm Springs Aerial Tram to ride to the top of the San Jacinto Mountains above Palm Springs.  The tram goes up the mountainside through Taquitz Canyon.  The gondola car on the tram slowly turns so that everyone can get a 360 degree view of the desert and canyon as the gondola ascends the cable.
Going up!  Palm Springs Tram
There is a museum, clean bathrooms, a large cafeteria and fine dining room at the tram station on top.  Daniel, the father of the family, is quite a hiker, so he immediately set off on a two hour hike into the forest of large pines and cedar trees there on top of the ridge.

Terrace and cafe at the top - Palm Springs Tram - Palm Springs below

I was a bit worried about Daniel getting lost – as many hikers who wander too far into the forest do every year.  But, he returned in time for a late lunch with us there on the terrace overlook.

The cooler air high up on the mountain was very welcome relief from the furnace like temperatures at the bottom tram station.  We descended in the tram and then down the very steep road from the tram station to the highway below. 

Gondola Leaving Upper Tram Station - Palm Springs Tram
Going Down - Lower Tram Station Below - Palm Springs
The constant heavy braking required on the steep road from the tram station to the highway caused our brakes to overheat.  I think this was the beginning of a brake problem that increased during the next week and a half. The brakes would heat up and cause heavy vibrations that got progressively more intense on the many mountain roads we encountered farther down the road.

After the trip up the mountain by the tram, we drove to Riverside, Ca. for the weekend (Friday to Monday morning) to visit with my family members who live in this area. 

Family Interlude, Riverside, Ca.

We all met at my daughter in law, Deanna’s, home and from there went out for steaks at an inexpensive steakhouse we patronize in the Fontana, Ca. area.  

The Frenchies had met Deanna’s family during their first visit to the United States in summer of 2008. They all went to Disneyland with the Deanna and her girls that year.

Me and my family (including granddaughter's boyfriends) and the Frenchies
This year they met my grandson, Josh, his new baby, Nicaise and Nichole, the baby’s mother.
My Great Grandson, Nicaise & Katy
I had permission from the hotel, Courtyard by Marriott located by University of California – Riverside, to have a swim party for all my relatives in the area at the hotel pool.  We had the swim party the next day, Saturday. The Frenchies met my other set of grandchildren and their mother, Kathleen, at the party.  I believe everyone had a good time.

Hotel Swim Party - L, Deanna, Katy, Mathieu, Nicholas, Daniel, Kathleen, Kristina
 Later in the day, we celebrated Deanna's birthday.

Deanna's Birthday Cake - From Left Danielle, Kathleen, Deanna, Daniel, Nicholas, Mathieu, Ashley 

Sunday, The Frenchies and I and two of my granddaughters went to see an Angel’s baseball game at the Angel’s Stadium in Anaheim. They had seen a baseball game on their first trip to the US. The Frenchies all bought souvenir baseball caps and seemed to enjoy the game.

2008 Frenchies at Angel Stadium

2010 - Mathieu, Nicholas, Savannah, Daniel, Katy, Daniel & Mikinzie

We had a pleasant surprise at the hotel check out.  They had booked us at a reduced weekend rate for Friday and Saturday nights for our large and pleasant rooms.  We drove down to San Diego for our next 3 day stop.

San Diego, Ca.

I had probably overloaded the itinerary (at their request with an enormous list of places and things to see and do) on their first trip - not really giving the family a chance to stop and rest.  I tried to avoid that mistake on this trip.  They wanted to visit the San Diego Zoo and Sea World … and, I knew they liked the beach, so I did quite a bit of research to find a hotel or motel that would be inexpensive, clean, and comfortable yet on or very near the beach.  I found the Mission Bay Motel in Pacific Beach, Ca. which seemed to fill those requirements.

The motel is located across the street from the beach at Pacific Beach, a long well maintained, beautiful beach. It was inexpensive for a motel located so close to the ocean even if a bit old in style and lacking in amenities.  There was a very nice restaurant across the street where we had our breakfast each of the 3 mornings we were in San Diego.
 Pacific Beach, California - Panoramic view 

The Frenchies and I went to Old Town San Diego just as it was getting dark the first of our 3 nights in San Diego. They spent the next day at the San Diego Zoo, a lot of time on the beach and window shopping nearby. I did not go with them to the zoo as I have seen it several times – I did a lot of reading and did all our laundry again.

Church - Old Town, San Diego, Ca.

Gift Shop - Old Town, San Diego, Ca.

Neon Sign - Pacific Beach Restaurant, San Diego, Ca.

Mexican Handicrafts - Old Town, San Diego. Ca/

Nicholas & Friend, Old Town, San Diego, Ca.

They decided to cross Sea World off their list of places to visit due to the high cost of entry.

Thanks for taking the time to look at the photos and read the blog.  Your comments are welcome. 

Next time – 2 California Missions, Hollywood, Magic Mountain, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Travels with the Frenchies - Canyon De Chelly, Petrified Forest, & Grand Canyon Parks, Sedona

August 10th to 12th, 2010
Canyon De Chelly, Grand Canyon, The Petrified Forest and Sedona

After leaving Monument Valley, we drove to Kayenta, Utah where we stopped for burgers at Burger King for dinner.  I hate to say it, but the town looks somewhat like it is in the Third World – the streets were covered with dark red mud and large puddles.  The neighborhoods were full of junky cars and houses that had seen better days.

I was approached by a drunk, a Navajo man just a little younger than me, who proceeded to question me about what I thought about the Navajo and what my impressions of the Navajo Nation were.  He then gave me a long, rather belligerent story about the Navajo Code Talkers of World War 2 fame. “Have you heard about them? What do you think about them?”  Blah, blah, blah!

I was certain the drunk was going to try to beg money off me as several other men or women had tried to do at our gas station stops in larger towns.

Ahh!, the bad habits of druggies and alcoholics!  Don’t you just love them?

The Navajo teenagers running the restaurant seemed deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the drunk.  I got the impression that this guy spent his days hanging around begging from tourists as they got out of their cars at the Burger King.  The end result of his efforts was that I bought him a combo meal and a coke.

The French family chastised me for being too generous - as my dad, their uncle, was in France.  Dad had winos that would stop daily at his front door there in the little town in France where he lived in retirement to “borrow” a Euro or two. Dad would give them a little lecture about their drinking, but would always give them something.

After eating, we had to seek directions to find the right road to our next overnight stop, Chinle, Arizona which is near the Canyon De Chelly National Park.

By the way, De Chelly is pronounced “Dew Shay”

Chinle is in the heart of Navajo Nation Territory or treaty land. Again the area looked economically depressed and, after the day’s thunderstorm, it was awash in red mud.  We stayed at the Best Western Motel.

The family had booked a morning jeep tour of the Canyon.  I chose to stay and do all of our laundry at the Laundromat just across the highway from our motel.  The guide arrived at 9AM with his jeep to take the Frenchies on their tour.  I asked Mathieu, the youngest son, to bring my camera with him to take photos.  He did a very admirable job with these photos.

Photo by Mathieu Jaeg-Desjardins

                      Photo by Mathieu Jaeg-Desjardins

Jaeg-Desjardin Family - Photo by Navajo Guide

                         Photo by Mathieu Jaeg-Desjardins

The following material is from the National Park Service’s online brochure.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Reflecting one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, the cultural resources of Canyon de Chelly include distinctive architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery while exhibiting remarkable preservation integrity that provides outstanding opportunities for study and contemplation. Canyon de Chelly also sustains a living community of Navajo people, who are connected to a landscape of great historical and spiritual significance. Canyon de Chelly is unique among National Park service units, as it is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land that remains home to the canyon community. NPS works in partnership with the Navajo Nation to manage park resources and sustain the living Navajo community.

                                                   Photo by Mathieu Jaeg-Desjardins

                                               Photo by Mathieu Jaeg-Desjardins

The place called Tseyi'

Millions of years of land uplifts and stream cutting created the colorful sheer cliff walls of Canyon de Chelly. Natural water sources and rich soil provided a variety of resources, including plants and animals that have sustained families for thousands of years. The Ancient Puebloans found the canyons an ideal place to plant crops and raise families. The first settlers built pit houses that were then replaced with more sophisticated homes as more families migrated to the area. More homes were built in alcoves to take advantage of the sunlight and natural protection. People thrived until the mid-1300’s when the Puebloans left the canyons to seek better farmlands.

Photo by Mathieu Jaeg-Desjardins

Photo by Mathieu Jaeg-Desjardins

Descendants of the Puebloans, the Hopi migrated into the canyons to plant fields of corn and orchards of peaches. Although the Hopi permanently settled on the mesa tops, the Hopi still hold on to many of their traditions that are evident from their homes and kivas.
             Photo by Mathieu Jaeg-Desjardins
Related to the Athabaskan people of Northern Canada and Alaska, the Navajo settled the Southwest between the four sacred mountains. The Navajo, or Dine' as they call themselves, continue to raise families and plant crops just as the “Ancient Ones” had. The farms, livestock and hogans of the Dine’ are visible from the canyon rims.

Navajo Livestock - Photo by M. Jaeg-Desjardins

Canyon de Chelly National Monument was authorized in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover in large measure to preserve the important archeological resources that span more than 4,000 years of human occupation. The monument encompasses approximately 84,000 acres of lands located entirely on the Navajo Nation with roughly 40 families residing within the park boundaries. The National Park Service and the Navajo Nation share resources and continue to work in partnership to manage this special place.

The family returned just before lunch - just as I came back to the motel with the clean clothes.  We searched out a supermarket owned and operated by the Dine’ or Navajo to buy sandwiches and sodas for our lunch.  We stopped at the picnic area at Canyon De Chelly to have our lunch before proceeding to our next destination.

The Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest

The desert was beautiful in the afternoon.  We drove South to join Interstate 40 where we turned West.  We left the Interstate for a short drive to see a giant meteor crater.  I had seen this attraction many years before. The crater is very impressive, more than a mile across with a partial spherical crater that is over 1,000 feet deep.  The crater is located on private land where there is an entry fee of $15 per person to allow visitors to stand on the rim of the crater.  We decided that this was a bit steep, so we returned to the Interstate. 

We came to the entry point for the Petrified Forest National Park. The park drive took us to several overlooks to view the colorful desert terrain.

We stopped at one view point where the foundation stones of a Puebloan building had been excavated. 
Nearby were some petro glyphs. One of the drawings was of an egret with a frog in its beak… 
Or. perhaps this was used as an example to the children! Can't you just hear the shaman as he brings the children out to the petroglyph? 
”Behave or the great bird will snatch you up and fly you away!!”

The forest was buried in the mud and silt of from an ancient sea that flooded the area millions of years ago. The trees were buried in an airless environment that preserved them and allowed a chemical process to begin that replaced wood with minerals that turned into stone.

It is fascinating to see how the detail of the log’s tree bark is preserved in bark colored stone. 
When the overlying earth and hard mud is washed away by wind and rain, more and more logs are exposed to view. 
It is easy to conclude that the weather 200 million years ago was cooler and supported a type of redwood tree that we now see as petrified logs and tree trunks.

Before the Petrified Forest became a national park, early visitors to the area took great delight in taking away pieces of petrified wood. Trains on the Santa Fe railroad would stop before 1906 so that passengers could stretch their legs and gather petrified wood souvenirs. There was a commercial venture that gathered petrified logs to crush down to use the grit for making sandpaper!  
All gathering of petrified wood in the park is now strictly forbidden and visitors’ cars may be inspected upon leaving the park.

It was almost dark when we left the Petrified Forest National Park. Our stop that night was at Holbrook, Arizona.

Grand Canyon National Park – The South Rim

Once again we visited a supermarket to buy delicatessen sandwiches and soft drinks before leaving Holbrook.  We had our lunch at the picnic area by Desert View Tower in the park.

There were multitudes of tourists at Grand Canyon, most of them visiting families from Europe in rented cars like us.  There were throngs of people visiting this area; it was difficult to find parking at all of our stops in the park.  I fear that the time may come in my life time when a visitor will need a reservation to visit many of our National Parks.

The Frenchies and I used my National Park Senior Pass to enter the Parks – saving from $10 to $25 per entry as we followed our itinerary.

The following information is from the National Park Service.

Grand Canyon National Park

A powerful and inspiring landscape, the Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size; 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep.

Grand Canyon National Park is a World Heritage Site which encompasses 1,218,375 acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States. Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins.

Well known its geological significance, the Grand Canyon is one of the most studied geologic landscapes in the world. It offers an excellent record of three of the four eras of geological time, a rich and diverse fossil record, a vast array of geologic features and rock types, and numerous caves containing extensive and significant geological, paleontological, archeological and biological resources. It is considered one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion in the world. The Canyon, incised by the Colorado River, is immense, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. It is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 15 miles at its widest. However, the significance of Grand Canyon is not limited to its geology.

The Park contains several major ecosystems. Its great biological diversity can be attributed to the presence of five of the seven life zones and three of the four desert types in North America. The five life zones represented are the Lower Sonoran, Upper Sonoran, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian. This is equivalent to traveling from Mexico to Canada. The Park also serves as an ecological refuge, with relatively undisturbed remnants of dwindling ecosystems (such as boreal forest and desert riparian communities). It is home to numerous rare, endemic (found only at Grand Canyon), and specially protected (threatened/endangered) plant and animal species. Over 1,500 plant, 355 bird, 89 mammalian, 47 reptile, 9 amphibian, and 17 fish species are found in the park.

The Desert View Watchtower written by Park Ranger Brian Gatlin

From Desert View… aptly named because of the views to the east of the Painted Desert…you can see the Colorado River make a big bend and continue to the west, the North Rim more than 10 miles away, and a panoramic view for well over 100 miles on a clear day.

The Watchtower dominates the near view. This structure was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter who is often referred to as the architect of the southwest. She traveled throughout the southwest to find inspiration and authenticity for her buildings. The architecture of the ancestral Puebloan people of the Colorado Plateau served as her model. This particular tower was patterned after those found at Hovenweep and the Round Tower of Mesa Verde.

The Desert View Watchtower is currently being renovated with Federal Stimulus Funds. The area has a nice gift shop, lunchroom, picnic area and clean restrooms.

There is a great sense of duration, age or the passage of time when one views and reflects on the Grand Canyon.  I visited the Canyon when I was about 10 years old and have periodically visited throughout my life. During the span of my days, the Canyon has remained the same. However, as you look down at the layer upon layer of eroded stone, you realize that you are looking back at the abrasive process of hundreds of millions of years as the land slowly rises under the flowing river to expose each level of stone for our wonder.

We left the park and headed back South to Sedona, Arizona. I had never been there before.

Sedona, Arizona

We arrived in Sedona just before dark after a winding descent through Oak Creek Canyon from the high country around Flagstaff, Arizona. 
The canyon reminded me a bit of the Ortega Highway from Lake Elsinore to San Juan Capistrano in Southern California – particularly the houses along the rushing creek that meandered down the canyon.

There were many beautiful homes along the creek the closer we got to Sedona. High over our heads were deep red sandstone cliffs glowing in the sunlight of the setting sun.

Our motel had a beautiful swimming pool which we used. Later, we ordered a pizza delivery for our dinner.

The next morning, we went into the town, which starts as the Oak Creek Canyon widens out. I was strongly reminded of Laguna Beach, California. There are lots of art galleries, souvenir shops, custom clothing boutiques, fancy restaurants and bars all through town. The town is very upscale and wealthy.  We spent some time looking around the shops and then we explored some of the residential areas in and around Sedona.   

We saw some very grand houses.   
The biggest and obviously most expensive was located just across from the Church in the Rocks. I think that big house was only missing a heliport. It had an observatory!

We had a hard time finding the Church. There was a lot of roadwork near the junction of the road that lead to the Church.
Once we found it – Oh, my!  What a beautiful location! 
The architecture is dramatic and striking. The woman who designed it thought of it as a work of art she was making to glorify God. It truly is magnificent – a small jewel in an exquisite setting! I hope you enjoy my photos of this wonderful place.

We walked up to the Church to see the interior and to view the red sandstone formations and the Sedona area below.
Too soon we had to leave for our next stop in Phoenix, Arizona.

Next – Phoenix, Palm Springs and the Aerial Tramway
Thanks for reading. Your comments are welcome.
Traveler Al