Thursday, 25 June 2015

Williams Arizona to San Diego - 8th April

We had the long drive (about 7 hours) from Williams to San Diego today. We had breakfast at the hotel, though it was packed - we took our breakfast to a foyer area and ate on a settee. We weren't in any huge hurry, I edited photos and put them on Facebook and showered while Scott and the kids watched some Police programme.
The scenery at Williams from our hotel!

Scott packing up the car once again!

It was a bit nippy in the morning - 53 degrees.
We filled up with petrol, then headed off. Lucy took this picture at the petrol station where there was the biggest American flag we've seen!

Williams is the town that the film 'Cars' is loosely based on!

Driving on Route 66!

The car was still feeling pretty organised - all the water bottles filled up, and everyone knowing what they're doing. 
On the drive we realised we were all a bit bashed up! I had some impressive bruises on my legs and a sore back, Scott had hurt his left shoulder, right thigh and left Achilles, and the kids had various bumps, scrapes, bruises and dried skin! Everyone was quite happy though.
I spent some time searching through radio stations to find some Country and Western music to match the scenery (quite typical by now - long straight roads, mountains in the background, and desert or dry grass and little shrubs), and I found a good one: '103.3 Route 66 Old Time Oldies Radio Station'! Last time Scott and I had been doing a long drive through American desert we came across the 'Beer is Good, God is Great' song, and this time we heard the lyrics 'When I think of all the crap I learnt at school...'!! Country music is funny!

After a while we turned off the main road and drove on a smaller one (the 95) which carried on in a straight line for literally miles, through the Mojave Desert. After a bit we stopped at the side of the road, and took a couple of pictures. At some point we crossed back into California.

The long road through the Mojave carried on...

and on...

Gradually the scenery changed a bit and became greener as it touched the Colorado River. We saw lots of little tracks leading from the road in the direction of the river, with an assortment of mail boxes at the roadside.

We think we stopped off at the town of Blythe for a late lunch, at a Carl's Junior. The towns out here all seemed a bit dead - just long straight roads with billboards for fast food places, and nothing much telling them apart.

The long drive continued, passing some palm tree farms.

The further we drove, the warmer it got!

As we got nearer to San Diego we drove through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

At one point, we stopped off, and went for a little walk (or run, in the case of Scott and the kids!) up a hill.

Lucy fell back and walked with me, and I told her there were all sorts of wildcats and snakes out here. I was totally making it up, but then I spotted these tracks (near Scott's foot print).

That totally freaked Lucy out and she decided she did NOT want to be on our little walk any more!! We were quite a way from the car though, so she had to carry on with me, so that she wouldn't be on her own! I said I'd carry a rock to protect her.

The boys making their way back to the car, which you can just about see. It was pretty wonderful, vast scenery, with absolutely no one around.

Me with my rock to save Lucy!

In some places, the sand was really soft and we kind of fell though it into lots of joined up shallow holes. I told Lucy they were snake nests, just to cheer her up! The boys quite enjoyed it.

Driving into Burrego Springs, in Anza-Burrego Desert State Park, there was lovely evening sunshine, and it was nice seeing the little community, all green and well kept after the desert.

We had to laugh at the parking spaces around the roundabout!! Apparently this roundabout is called Christmas Circle.

We then drove up into the mountains. Crazy to see the massive plain below, which we had just driven across. The mountains went on for quite a way. Very quiet, and with their own almost moonscapey atmosphere. I just can't get over loving the vastness of America.

As we got nearer to San Diego, the scenery gradually became more green, till some bits started looking like Derbyshire!

At last (after diving through Julian, famous for its pies) we reached Ramona, where our friends the Bleakleys live. They moved from England in summer 2013, and we couldn't wait to see them again!
We knew they would be at church for youth night, but stopped by their house first to see if they were already back. Their neighbourhood is lovely - up in the hills. We couldn't quite believe this was their home now!!

We drove the few miles to their chapel, and Young Women's was still going on. Lucy poked her head round the door, and we could just hear this ENORMOUS scream, and Abi came running out and threw her arms round Lucy. I was so happy to see them together again! Imogen and Holly followed Abi out, then Sam came from Scouts.

Abi noticing that Jack has grown a bit since she last saw him!

Imogen, Abi and Lucy.

Harry getting a hug too whether he liked it or not!

The kids (Abi I should say!) were so excited and making so much noise that it was a bit embarrassing!! More than anything though, it was just good to see everyone together!
We then headed back to the Bleakleys (met their new puppy, Max) and a little while later Tim came home too. We had some snacks, then got beds sorted out for everyone. Jack had one of the little girl's rooms, Tom and Harry had lilos in Sam's room, Lucy and the older girls (including Imogen's German exchange student, Amelia) slept in the living room, and Scott and I were given Tim and Holly's room, while they had the older girls' room. The Bleakley's house is fantastic! Really big!
Then we just stayed up chatting and catching up with everything!
The Bleakleys seem really happy in San Diego, and everything has worked out really well for them. It was like we hadn't been apart really, but strange that they have this whole new life instead now!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Utah to Grand Canyon - 7th April

We had breakfast at the hotel (me with wild hair from going to bed with it damp!), then set off on our day's journey to Williams, Arizona. It was a great day - very happy!!

We stopped off at lots of places along the way, including three or four times at the Natural Bridges National Monument. Scott and I wondered if we should make the detour there, and thought we might as well!
It's a bit hard to spot this first bridge...

Although the skies were blue it was a bit chilly, so we didn't hang around anywhere for too long. Here are the boys who came, saw, then legged it!

The last natural bridge was great! We walked a little way, and got to go all the way under the arch.
I also loved the smooth, worn, creamy stone that we walked on in lots of places. I just felt super happy, soaking it all in. It was also quite warm out of the breeze.

We then drove down the Moki Dugway - a gravelly road going down a massive cliff!

The view from near the top of the Moki Dugway was just incredible - a vast empty plain stretching for miles, with the odd red rock stack sticking out.

This picture kind of shows how high up we were!

The road itself was crazy - worse than the Alps! Ridiculous bends, and no fencing for most of it. We stopped the car at one point on the way down, and the kids and I very cautiously made our way up to a high rocky outlook place. I made the kids stay really close to the rock walls because the wind was strong and gusty.

I was relieved when we made it to the bottom, and out onto the long straight road we had seen from above. Not far away was Goosenecks State Park - a lookout point over where the Colorado River does some 'gooseneck' bends. It was pretty amazing.
There weren't many people there, but when we arrived, a woman said 'Is one of you called Harry?' Her family had been at Delicate Arch the day before when we'd been there, and had heard me calling Harry! I was a bit embarrassed, because that's when I'd been a bit stressed and Tom had been a pain! Oh well! We had a nice chat anyway, and they were interested in church (being in Utah etc). They were from Cambridge, but living in California at the moment.

We carried on driving, and stopped at Mexican Hat Rock. We took the car off road a bit, onto the red dirt around the base of the Hat and got out and had some lunch there.

Everyone was is good spirits, really enjoying it!

Tom singing 'We are the Three Amigos!''

We then had about a three hour drive to the Grand Canyon, past lots of Indian lands and towns, through Monument Valley, across the Utah/Arizona border, and past Cameron (where Scott and I stayed last time.)

It's just fabulous standing by the side of the road taking in this iconic scenery!

We could also see quite a few dust devils (little whirlwinds) across the landscape - cool!!

Stopping off at the border!

The kids were fine on the drive. Harry played Minecraft on my phone for quite a bit of it, with me pointing out each cool thing we passed.

This is typical of some of the homesteads dotted around the place. What a different life from ours back home!

As we got nearer the Grand Canyon, we started to see canyon land forming.

At Grand Canyon, we stopped at the viewing tower, which is lovely to be in - great views!

Taking a picture in one of the black glass Reflectoscopes!

We stopped off at another couple of smaller viewing places along the South Rim.

Our last stop-off point was in the Village. We were in a bit of a daft mood by then, and were like ''Oh look - another hole...'', ''You should be more respectful to holes!!', ''Well, it is a very nice hole''' etc etc! We could have walked along the edge trail for a bit, but everyone had pretty much got the idea, and were a bit tired by then, so we headed for Williams which was another hour away. We'd planned on having tea at Grand Canyon Village, but it looked packed (there was a lot of traffic on the way out of Grand Canyon) so we decided to hang on till Williams.
Scott and I said if we ever come back to Grand Canyon we'll have to do a proper hike down into it, to be able to appreciate it better.

We were starving by the time we got to Williams, so quickly dumped our bags in the Quality Inn (no lifts again!) and went to Pizza Hut, which I absolutely relished. The kids sat in one red leather booth, and Scott and I sat in the next one along.
I took these photos in the wrong camera setting, but they're of such good memories!

Lucy and Tom enjoying outdoor settees on our hotel forecourt!