Thursday, May 28, 2009

Grand Canyon AZ

Internet connection is almost non-existent at this less-than-adequate campground. We skipped the rotten Wi-Fi supplied here and are using Sprint's broadband air-card, which is usually lightening fast, dead-on reliable. Cell phone coverage at the Canyon is sketchy too. Check later for updates, could be a few days after Bryce and Zion, when we get to Las Vegas. We'll see.

We made it to the Grand Canyon, where again I am wordless at describing this. You must see this place with your own eyeballs as flat photographs or prose is inadequate. Like a tremendous gash in the crust of the earth, it reveals a landscape alien beyond description. There are myriad colors, rocks and texture, striations, wideness, depth, a hugeness in every way that is not captured by anything but being there in person. Although the crowds are casual, shorts and sweatshirts, there is an overall subdued awe demonstrated by everyone as we stand on windy overlooks. I could stay here for a long time just gazing at the details of the Canyon in silence. There is just not enough time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Off to the next destination

We are going to try to leave Phoenix today and make it to the Grand Canyon. My son's Jeep has problems so we leave him with his car in the shop...

Goodbye dusty southwestern RV park!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sombre Memorial Day article about my deceased POW Dad

A local Loudoun County historian recently interviewed my Mother. When we lived in Saigon, Gustav Crane Hertz, my civilian Dad was captured by the Viet Cong. He died in captivity.

Throughout the ordeal, my mother prayed to Our Lady of Ransom, the merciful Virgin to whom many begged for freedom from the Moors around the time of the Crusades. The feast day of Our Lady of Ransom is September 24, ironically the reported day that my father succumbed to malaria.

Through a quirk, I learned very recently through a letter-to-the-editor in Vietnam Magazine and some personal exchanges of email, that a brave Colonel led a failed attempt in the Vietnam jungle  to rescue my father. By the time the these experienced soldiers got the permission and necessary supplies, it was too late. My father's camp had moved. At the time, our family did not know of Colonel Carvell's efforts. It would have only added to our anguish to hope for a rescue and hear of its failure. After learning this almost 40 years later, I was able to express my gratitude to Colonel Crash. I wonder too, how many other efforts of so many individuals went unnoticed on my father's behalf throughout the military and government agencies.

Below are extracts of the Life Magazine story on my dad.
[If you click on each photo, you should be able to read the enlarged text. Then use the 'back' button on your browser to return to the smaller size.]

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Friday, May 22, 2009

In case you are wondering...and even if you are not

I've posted placeholders below in order of the trip locations to which I will add. I'm a newbie at this and Blogger, although super easy to use, has some organizational limitations. I like blaming the limitations on Blogger instead of me. [Software creates a convenient vehicle for redirecting blame, just in case you haven't noticed. For some, it is it's primary purpose!] Please bear with me as I try this placeholder thing out.
Over the past week the Mac blew up, the Apple store fixed it, and now I have everything back, including my photos and notes of the trip. Yay. Organizing this way should allow me to catch up from this temporary disaster, while allowing me some running commentary of this full trip as we roll along.

Sedona AZ

A post will follow shortly - this was one of the weirdest towns I've ever visited. Fantastically beautiful. Small with 40 churches [what is going on here??]. Psychics and tourists, mixed with Indian influences. Bright red rocks and plateaus surrounding this happy town. Four magnetic vortexes out of 21 in the world. [This only means something to you if you have read anything about electro-magnetic patterns covering the earth. Okay, I've heard of that, but still don't know what a vortex really means to me personally. Hopefully, it cures insanity.]

You WILL check back on this one. Don't you feel the magnetic pull?


Phoenix AZ

Placeholder for this town.

We've been forced to stay here a week. Hot. Boring. Like Los Angeles without the advantages. Fortunately my son lives here and it has been great to see him. We got to a TLM too! Additionally, getting to know a resident of the RV park here added to the interest.
We planned to leave Thursday, but were foiled after many tries. Okay, there must be a reason. Being flexible [easily discouraged] we gave up. We will stay in this gravel pit posing as an RV park for Memorial Weekend. Possibly might include a trip to Las Vegas. Then when the 'karma' changes, we will proceed to the Grand Canyon.

In the meantime, we made a trip to Sedona. Wow.

check back. lots to tell. [at least I'll make it seem that way]

About Phoenix Arizona:
update 052609
Mad dogs and Englishmen.

When we arrived, East Coasters that we are, we were shocked by the intense heat. I was so hot I could hardly breathe, was dizzy and found it really hard to concentrate. I mean it is HOT here.

We arrived just as the weather changed from bearable to lung-scalding, after mid-May. Folks just stay in during the hottest part of the day, doing things early in the morning or as the sun is setting or later. Unless you are a tourist or insane, you avoid outdoor exertion in the afternoon.

It doesn't rain in Phoenix, being in reality a stark desert, unless it is monsoon season, when it pours and floods over the hard ground. But fortunately, for a few days we had overcast skies and the temperature dropped to about 80. This made life much more pleasant!

My son John-Joseph explained that I must drink twice the amount of water that I think I should. He drinks about 2 liters a day here. Water bottles are sold everywhere. At Costco, I got a bottle of water for donating to a hospital. John-J says that restaurants are required to provide free water to anyone requesting water, no matter who you are, paying customer or not. The dry, dry desert heat sucks any moisture out of the skin. Because of the dryness, no sweat stays on the skin, so one is unaware of the massive amounts of moisture loss - until you feel lightheaded, lose concentration and get sleepy. Forget beer or caffeinated drinks, its water, water, water! Anything else might flush the needed water right out of you.

Not that I don't drink coffee and alcohol - I just must remember to drink three times as much plain water if I do.

For a place so dependent on water, residents and foreign plants, the water must be brought in from far away sources namely the Colorado, Salt and Verde rivers. These sources are replenished by melting snow packs. The water quality isn't great, almost undrinkable, unless you like sea monkeys and rocks. Its very hard water. We buy water from a store called Water n Ice, filling our five-gallon bottle with treated water at 25 cents a gallon. Bottled water and treated water is big business here.

The dog is hot all the time and pretty listless. He drinks and drinks and drinks.

The pleasant winter temperatures and the shriveling heat explains why 'snowbirds' arrive for the winter and leave mid-May. However the residents stay. Some like the heat. My son says he likes it here. "Winter" to them is 60 degrees apparently and they never want to experience snow again. Then there are those who are forced by family or circumstance to be here, like the lady from Illinois who moved here because of her husband's work. She has been here 20 years and hates it and can't get used to it. She wants humidity and rain and wants to grow something.

As we drove in from Payson, the scenery changed from thick pine forest to rocky desert. Then Saguaro cacti appeared all over hillsides. Wow what a change. The RV started creaking and crackling from the heat. We could feel heat rolling off of the windows.

We rolled into the Tempe RV park, "Apache Palms". Not a treed place ["patchy palms"?], to make an understatement. A few short trees and a couple of palm trees, and some cacti. Everything is gravel. Not a blade of grass. More like a dusty gravel pit. Welcome to the Southwest! If you want something to grow, you have to water it every day or no shade for you!

The gravel here is strange. It is white and sharp. Not the nice pebbles or river rock common to East Coast landscaping, but gravel harsh and painful to walk on. I understand how gravel must cover the grassless dust, but I don't understand the painful rock thing spread all through the Phoenix area. The dog will not walk on this stuff. He just stands on the cement, looking away, ignoring me and my tugs on the leash. Oh and forget the black pavement if you don't want to cook the dog's paws.

But keep in mind, people DO live here. Five million. There are schools, universities, businesses, malls...traffic. So like any place else on earth, people work around the negative aspects and enjoy the positive. Hey, after all, there doesn't appear to be any bugs at all, the lack of lush flora provides little allergens, and there is none of that oppressive humidity that plagues other watery climes. Because of the dry air, body sweat dissipates immediately in the high temperatures, cooling the body efficiently.

At this small RV park, I've met a few of the full-time residents. Folks live in gigantic motorhomes or teeny-tiny ones. One gentleman in particular, a British citizen, lives in a trailer so small, it only holds a bed and a doll-house-like kitchen. He uses one of the two RV park bathroom/showers and the laundry room of about ten machines. Living on retirement from his days as a British airways steward with the addition of other jobs, he has been here about a year. Bubbly and energetic, Dennis calls him the Prince of the Park as he greets and chatters with anyone who has just rolled in and visits regularly with his fellow residents. His very small Silky Terrier, though my Silky Terrier is bigger, and mine get along great. The Prince even sat my dog all day while we went to Sedona. We gave him a copy of Lucille Ball's "The Long, Long Trailer", a classic hilarious story of camping. The whole park is friendly.

The RVs here bake in the sun. Different from cooler climes, weather affects these campers harshly. You really miss shade as air conditioners labor to keep the campers only at 84 F degrees or so. Tires are covered with white or silvery material to keep them from melting. I saw one set of windshield wipers resting on plastic bottles to keep the rubber from adhering to the windshield. Windows and windshields are covered with silvery batting as rubber gaskets, curtains, and interior upholstery will disintegrate in no time. Hanging off of awnings, full-timers frequently have misters that spray a fine mist to cool the air. Sitting outside is rare in the heat of the day and direct sun.

I won't miss the pervasive dust! Gradually, a fine coating of dust is noticed throughout the RV, penetrating upholstery and shades, rugs and clothing. This fine dust creates subtle silhouettes of furniture and walls and cabinets. Dust makes the hair feel gritty, blackens the used bathing water. Air filters must be cleaned frequently, and moving parts like steps and doors need grease. I wonder what this does to car engines? The tragedy of The Dust Bowl of the 1930s becomes more real - every little plant, every drop of water makes a difference. My son mentioned, as we watched a water truck lumbering up a street, that trucks water the dust along roads and construction sites keeping the dust down. Dust and sand whips up easily into dust storms here.

Its hot. Did I say that already?

Petrified Forest / Painted Desert; Holbrook, AZ

This park left me speechless. Unfortunately for you, I can always find words, which I will force you to read in order to look at our photos. Soon!

Santa Fe, NM

Wow. this is a great town - lotsa pictures to post here. Be sure to check back. Or I will stalk you.